Monday, November 28, 2005

Censorchimps: The Tennessee Subspecies

Once again, a high school has confiscated copies of a student newspaper. This time, the offending articles were about birthcontrol and tattoos: (emphasis added)
Administrators at Oak Ridge High School went into teachers' classrooms, desks and mailboxes to retrieve all 1,800 copies of the newspaper Tuesday, said teacher Wanda Grooms, who advises the staff, and Brittany Thomas, the student editor.

The Oak Leaf's birth control article listed success rates for different methods and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department. Superintendent Tom Bailey said the article needed to be edited so it would be acceptable for the entire school.

The edition also contained a photo of an unidentified student's tattoo, and the student had not told her parents about the tattoo, said Superintendent Tom Bailey.

"I have a problem with the idea of putting something in the paper that makes us a part of hiding something from the parents," he said.

The paper can be reprinted if the changes are made, he said.

"We have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing," he said. "We've got 14-year-olds that read the newspaper."

Thomas said she wasn't sure about making changes. "I'm not completely OK with reprinting the paper," she said.

First Amendment experts were critical of the seizure.

"This is a terrible lesson in civics," University of Tennessee journalism professor Dwight Teeter said. "This is an issue about the administration wanting to have control. Either the students are going to have a voice, or you're going to have a PR rag for the administration."
Frankly, I don't want anybody going into my desk drawers to retrieve anything. If administrators need to get at something that is in my teacher's desk, I have no problem with them asking me for it. It's not a matter of privacy (Actually, the desk belongs to the district, and as such, may be searched at anytime.) it's a matter of being treated as a professional.

And yes, I know that the Supreme Court is
on the side of Oak Ridge's administration. But that doesn't make it right.
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