The Seattle Times' Opinion on "Public Forum" Student Papers


"But we say again it is a risky thing to give legal control of a high-school newspaper to students."

Seattle Times Editorial

Sunday, November 20, 2011

School Newspaper Update

The school board is leaning toward no prior review, in which case, administrators, including the principal, will only read the paper after it is published and distributed. The advisor will be limited to just making suggestions while the school district and taxpayers still bear the brunt of legal repercussions--even from inadvertent errors made by teenage editors.

The board indicated they do not feel comfortable telling the students what is appropriate for the student body. "Everyone on the board may feel like oral sex is not an appropriate topic, but there will be someone out there who disagrees," Bonnie Everdeen was heard to say at the special policy meeting on July 22.

They stated they are planning to trust the student editors to make content decisions. The newspaper has already:
  • published a nude photograph of John Lennon
  • included high school drug dealing in a jobs feature along with practical information on how to get away with it
  • advertised a dicey club where crimes have been reported as just a fun alternative to the school dances
  • promoted as the #1 video of the year a youtube video that comes the warning: extreme profanity--do not view if under 18 ("went outside, smoked a bad of meth" "you're no better than the three holes you were born with" + profanity throughout)
  • claimed a TV show (Tila Tequila) that "practically promotes alcoholism . . . must be cool" (squall reporter quote).
  • published an informational survey of DHS students asking where they get their alcohol
  • distributed the photograph of a clearly recognizable teenage girl in a sexual pose with another student after she told them she did not want it published (they later removed it from the website, but only after handing the printed copy out to all the students at the high school--and of course, the online fingerprint remains for anyone interested in retrieving the offending image). 
One school board member ignorantly compared the sexual grinding to girls harmlessly playing volleyball and bumping into each other and said he didn't see what the difference was. And all of the board members expressed the idea that since "nothing had crossed the line in the newspaper so far," they didn't expect anything to cross the line in the future and were satisfied to give judgement calls to the students.

We disagree. Especially in a school sponsored newspaper distributed directly to kids. Some very negative messages about women and their role in society are being given to impressionable teens (the boys as well as the girls).

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Common Sense in the Seattle Times

November 10, 2011

"I was told by the principal, by the newspaper adviser and by the Edmonds School Board that the students were completely in charge of the newspaper and no adults were in the position to help with the decision of which articles should go in the paper.

Of course I am aware of the U.S. Constitution and right to free speech. However, these are minors in an educational institution using taxpayer money to produce the student newspaper. They are in high school to learn and be advised, and yet it appears that educators are afraid to provide education, leadership and expertise.
If we are preserving the students’ First Amendment rights, then are we to preserve the Second Amendment as well and allow them the right to bear arms? Where does it stop?"
We are wondering this ourselves.