Halls of Shame, Part 1

After school administrators ripped a column about birth control out of their school paper, students at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee instead got to read a piece about a play. Photographs accompanying a story about body piercings and tattoos were also stripped out of 1,800 copies of the Oak Leaf newspaper.
Blame it on Principal Becky Ervin and Thomas Bailey, the district superintendent.
Bailey said, in a press release, “The administration felt that the interests of the student population would not be served by certain content of the articles” that they censored.
He told the local paper, “The action of the principal was totally appropriate. I would have done the same thing as a principal all the way to the end, whatever the end may be. We have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing. We’ve got 14-year-olds that read the newspaper.”
Yes, a free press is a terrible thing for students to read. Why if these folks aren’t careful, those teens might even learn a thing or two outside the carefully screened curriculum.
Far better to teach students that censorship is the answer when journalists don’t kowtow to the school administration’s absurdly strict line.
So let’s put Becky Ervin and Thomas Bailey in our new Halls of Shame feature here — congratulations to them both — and remind young readers that one good reason to write for The Tattoo is that we take teens seriously.
If a story is true, fair and interesting, we’ll print it. We have high standards, as we should, but we begin with the fundamental premise that students are not idiots. About the only things they need protection from are narrow-minded, censoring jerks like Ervin and Bailey.
Feel free, by the way, to send us other examples of middle and high school censorship. It’s time to showcase some of the absurdities that young journalists face when they try to learn the craft at school.

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