A rush to the head — Literary magazine supports student expression, defends controversial topics

Jordan Huesers, Features Editor

They’re not afraid to push the limits.

They will not avoid controversy.

They don’t turn away edgy submissions — featured pieces from previous years include depression and suicide.

The Headrush staff prides itself on offering students a forum to display their artwork in a publication.

The staff looks for interesting and unique submissions — pieces that evoke thought and possess deeper meanings.

They select individual poems and artwork and try to match some of the pieces together with a similar theme to create spreads.

“Creativity is taking something that most people find ordinary and putting your own flare to it,” senior staff member Kaytie Smith said. “It is something just, you do.”

Sponsor Keil Pittman said Headrush focuses on recognizing students’ achievements that would normally not get attention. The student body sees characteristics of the artist it would have never expected.

“We were going through several submissions, especially writings, and we realized these submissions were from people we knew,” Smith said. “We were blown away because we never knew these things about these people. It is very personal to be able to read or view people’s work.”

When dealing with controversial subject matters such as suicide, the staff carefully selects which pieces will be suitable in the magazine.

“If the submission promotes suicide, it is frowned upon,” junior staff member Zack Jenkins said. “However, if it shows content dealing with everyday life, which could potentially, sadly enough, be suicide in our society today, we look at it for its quality.”

Pittman said his professional obligation is to contact a counselor if he finds any submissions potentially harmful. However, he said some submissions may evoke a suicidal impression, when in actuality the content isn’t as severe.

“Writing is somewhat therapeutic,” he said. “For us to get something and jump to a conclusion, thinking that this could be a realistic detrimental thing to a student, when it could be just an avenue for people to get things off their chest.”

In previous years, Pittman said staff members occasionally came to him, disturbed by submissions. The staff then examined the case further to determine a level of concern.

“We published one several years ago that [a staff member] knew the writer and thought it was a lot more serious than originally expected,” Pittman said. “That was one of the pieces that, when we investigated, we found it was just a kid trying to vent.”

This year, Smith said a piece the staff is considering for the magazine cover contains abstract nudity. According to the Kansas Student Publication Act, the school district cannot censor the material.

“It is artwork; it is not pornography,” Smith said. “If [people] have a problem with it, they don’t have to look at it. We are printing what we think is a good representation of people at our school who deserve to be recognized for their art. Whether it contains profanity or nudity or anything bolder, it is just not our concern.”

Before the 2005-2006 school year, Headrush was produced in a class.

Pittman said each year there are fewer students who know about Headrush and the work that goes into it.

He said the controversial nature of the material in Headrush means more students recognize only that defining element, not the work students dedicate to produce it.

“I think we have almost a cult following and that we’re known to be this darker, sinister thing and that’s not necessarily true,” he said. “We invite all submissions, it’s just that what we find kids doing these days is more the dark teen angst. It’s not that it’s bad poetry; it just seems to be a very traumatic time period for kids with a lot on their minds. High school can be a difficult place.”