Censorship at Leesville


Censorship, or a lack thereof, has always been a huge issue. Different societies, social classes and religions will always try to dictate what people can and cannot say, print and believe.

The First Amendment was the first attempt by the founding fathers to rectify the glitches in the Constitution. It singled out various problems within the nation and gave a direct decision concerning each issue. For example, it directly states that Americans have the right to freedom of Religion, Speech, Assembly, Petition and, most importantly for the issues concerned in this article, Press.

Thus, the question of censorship. If Americans have the right to freedom of the Press, how could there be any question as to what is allowed in the newspaper?

“It’s definitely important for people to say what they believe. There is no reason that they should be all ‘hush-hush’ about the things they think; it’s one of the defining factors of Americans,” said Jessica Rea, a junior at Leesville Road High School.

However, like all other things American, there are exceptions.

The court case Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier occurred in May 1983. The Hazelwood East High school newspaper, The Spectrum attempted to publish articles about divorce and pregnancy. The principal refused to publish the paper, and the students took the case to the Supreme Court.

Hence the exception: the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 that the principal did, in fact, have a right to censor the students’ articles.  

But if high school is preparing teenagers for the real world, shouldn’t they have the same rights as people in the real world?

The answer to this question is no.  

“Educators did not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the content of student speech so long as their actions were ‘reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns’,” was the argument of the Supreme Court.

So school systems can censor articles in school newspapers in an effort to shelter the students.

I understand the intentions of the principal. High school should be a mock real life environment, a place where young adults learn the ways of the world without the pressures of being completely exposed to them. This includes the media. The principal was simply controlling the newspaper to shelter the students.

And yet, this brings into question the content of the stories.

The two articles in concern were about divorce and pregnancy. Teenagers are constantly bombarded with these issues, especially in modern society, when divorce rates and teenage pregnancy rates are rapidly increasing.

“I hear about divorce and pregnancy almost all the time. It’s incredibly common,” said Robert Taylor, senior.

The content associated with students is extremely important to consider while deciding what to censor. An example of a subject not appropriate to discuss is a recent scandal involving Tyra Banks, one in which she focused on teenage sex addicts.

The mother of a 15 year old is suing Tyra Banks for 3 million dollars because the 15 year old appeared on the show as a self proclaimed sex addict without the mother’s consent.

The mother was concerned about the welfare of her child. Understandably, she was worried about the effect this media exposure would have on her daughter’s reputation.

This example parallels the school environment. The school administration’s job, like the mother, is to decide whether the subject matter could be harmful to the students (the daughter’s) reputation.   

“As administrators, our job is to make sure each article is truthful and factual. We try to allow the freedom to write what is wanted, but it’s our job to make sure it’s appropriate,” said Gary Duvall, an administrator at Leesville.

Censorship is necessary and appropriate in a school environment. It prevents the exposure of detrimental stories that could potentially harm specific people. But things that high school students hear about “almost all the time?” That should not cause a problem.

The judges should make the decision with the reporters’ purpose in mind, as well as the audience’s reception of it. Not by a panel of precautionary, “better safe than sorry” adults.


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