Friday, November 20, 2009

What Are The Limits of Censorship?

AN ISSUE OF AN ILLINOIS high school newspaper was spiked this week when administrators learned that the issue contained stories about drinking and smoking by honor students, teen pregnancy, and shoplifting.

Because the students are working on a school-sponsored (and school-funded) project, the school has the right to review and approve content before publication.

The director of the Student Press Law Center reviewed the articles and deemed them balanced. They did not advocate misbehavior. They simply presented reality.

In February, all the copies of one edition from the same high school newspaper mysteriously disappeared (administrators allegedly claimed the copies were snapped up so quickly, students couldn't find them). That issue contained stories about the hook-up culture at the school.

What would you do as the student journalists? Do you accept the administrations' authority and quietly back away? Or do you scream censorship and hope to bring change? Do the students have an argument here?

Who decides what subjects are taboo and should be censored?

12 comments:

DAN said...

I think the school does have a right to monitor the content that is put in a newspaper that it sponsors and funds. The school newspaper is a reflection of the school so it isn't surprising that the school wouldn't want stories about drinking, smoking, stealing and other deviant behaviors published in the paper. Also, since abstinence and safe sex are a universal (i think) way that sex is presented in schools, stories about students hooking up don't really belong in the paper either. Running stories like that, as far as I'm concerned, would do nothing but spur confrontation and fuel gossip, neither of which should be the goal of a student newspaper.

Wafai.Dias said...

As a student journalist I would investigate what exactly is going on then I would write a really good paper, sign it annonymous then flood the school with papers everywhere so that everyone can know what is going on. I know that it's illegal for teens to Drink and smoke but if the school allows them to print what other teens are doing then other teens can learn what not to do. If you censor someone from doing something that only makes them more determined to do it.

Diana Cooper said...

If I was a student journalist, I would maybe revise the article in a way that wouldn't seem inappropriate. If it is an issue that will bring change then I would really try to have it published. There's not a lot students can do since the administration has the final say.

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Aleks Molnar said...

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Unfortunately, the students don't have a choice in the matter. If the administration wants to review and censor their paper, it's the administration's perogative. The students, even those over eighteen, are under the protection of the school while admitted and attending, so if what they print is found offensive, it can be censored.

Does it make it right? No. Censoring as a whole is wrong in my opinion. It only leads to trouble like this. But whatever floats the administration's boat is what flows.

Rosella Eleanor LaFevre said...

I was the editor-in-chief of my high school paper. And while we were never greatly censored like this school in Illinois, we did have to present the paper to the principal for her approval. While I understand the logic behind this, if the articles that are written about these topics are balanced and not advocating these behaviors and rather are simply presenting the truth, this is not against any laws and should be allowed.

Lisa Jiang said...

I guess since the school is the one who sponsers and funds the newspaper, they have a say in what goes into the paper. However, I still think it's unfair.

Mike McDermott said...

High school newspapers are always censored. The school should filter what it's students are presenting in their written representation. Don't whine about it, use the paper as a means to publish some work and sharpen your writing skills. After that, move on to write the hard-hitting stories about hook-ups you always dreamed of.

Jendayi said...

The school does have a vote in what is put in the newspaper bacause the newspaper is for a high school audience and it is sponsored by the high school.The rules for censorship are different for other publications.The students should have a voice also but within the boundaries of the high school newspaper, the school officials make the final decisions

Bill Carlson said...

It is a high school paper. If it were for a university I would have different feelings. The problem is that they are not legally independent adults. Their parents/guardians have the right to control their content intake as well as what they produce. I am sure that they would not permit someone to write an essay about people getting blow jobs on campus, even if it were purely factual. I got in trouble a lot in high school for the things that I wrote. I did an article about how marijuana could save California's economy. This was almost 20 years ago. Now it is a topic in mainstream news. I got in serious trouble because they felt that the ideas were not appropriate for teenagers (even though half of the student body was stoned). I am against censorship but when it comes to child rearing there is zero democracy involved.

Anonymous said...

FELICIA TOPSALE SAYS.............. I think the students provided an open forum for themselves which is great but it is possible that reading about underage drinking and one night stands among students at school is like opening a can of worms. That leaves room for a lot of students to get caught in the middle of gossip. It brings light to some hidden issues and problems at the school but unfortunately, some students may bot be mature enough to deal with those issues and it may promote bad behavior for attention. Since I can't read the articles written on the things the students did, it is difficult to say. If I was a teacher in the school, I don't think I'd want my students reading the paper for that reason. If the articles gave solutions to some of the problems the students wrote about, it may be commendable journalism.

Ashley said...

We can use a Supreme Court case in determining the validity of the censorship. The Supreme Court did vote that a school district can choose to censor the school newspaper if it violates standards set by the district. (Hazlewood v. Kuhlmeier) It's not a violation of the First Amendment. So, can a school tell the kids not to print... surely. Should they be so strict as to block out opinionated writing, and prevalent issues, regardless of their content being slightly objectionable? Probably not.