Campus paper hot topic
“We wanted to do real student issues. That’s part of why we did one on drug use. Part of our goal was to push the envelope a little, yes, but not to the extent it went,” he added. The issue included a first-person editorial piece by an admittedly gay student who wrote about the nature of homosexuality. In his article, the student debunked the idea that homosexuals can be “cured,” saying people should focus more on learning to accept gays. The issue also polled students about their sexual activity and knowledge. For the sex survey, Hernandez said journalism adviser Holly Vance distributed 100 questionnaires to each grade level and received about 400 responses. Student and teacher then compiled statistics from the responses and published some of the answers. “We weren’t trying to advocate whether sex is OK,” Hernandez said. “It’s just about that students are having sex and some are not being responsible about it, why and why not? The survey shows that.” According to the survey, which students completed anonymously, 66 percent of La Serna High students are sexually active. Only 46 percent, however, said they used protection regularly. Nearly a quarter of the respondents said they had had sex with between three and five different partners, and 15 percent said they had had sex with nine or more partners. More students said they learned about sex from friends than from parents or school, the survey showed. While the survey drew complaints from parents, the biggest objections centered on the Freelancer’s glossary of terms related to sexuality, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, Hernandez said. “They told me that the word search was crossing the line,” he said. “I think we just happen to live in a very conservative community. Parents and faculty don’t want to face the fact that kids are sexually active.” That opinion seemed to take on substance after Plourde visited the journalism class and informed the students that he was canceling the June edition as punishment for the May issue, according to Hernandez. While Plourde told the students that they put the issue out without Vance’s approval, Vance said she technically approved the issue. She added, however, that she should have scrutinized the edition more closely, and she admitted that, in hindsight, she probably would have killed the glossary. “I take responsibility for letting some things go to press that were, perhaps, in poor taste,” Vance said. “If I had handled it better, perhaps the controversy wouldn’t have gotten so big.” After Plourde canceled the June issue, the students claimed censorship. They contacted the Student Press Law Center, where officials assigned a lawyer to investigate whether the students have grounds to sue, officials for the law center confirmed. Mark Goodman, executive director of the organization, saidthe California Student Free Expression Law defines only a few situations where school administrators can justify prohibiting a publication. Those situations include material that is obscene, libelous, slanderous, and material that incites violence or law-breaking. “The school is legally obligated to let students decide the content unless they can show it falls into one of those categories,” Goodman said. “It obviously does not. \ are pretty clearly in violation of the code, and if the students chose to contest it, it seems they’d have a chance.” Staff writer Megan Arii-Heger said she and the editors brought up the issue at a recent school board meeting. Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson then agreed to meet with the students. Several telephone calls were placed and messages left at Thorstenson’s office, seeking comment. She did not return calls. Plourde also did not return calls for this article. “\ told us the reason they cancelled the June issue was to avoid the sex issue coming up again,” Arii-Heger said. “She told us her attorney told her she could legally do that, but ours said she couldn’t. “They think we’re little kids and don’t know what’s going on,” she added. “I really think it’s wrong to undermine the voice of the student body.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WHITTIER – Student journalists on La Serna High School’s newspaper The Freelancer have a track record of tackling serious subjects. Previous issues of the monthly campus paper have looked at such topics as the differences in religions and teen drug use and drug abuse. But the May issue of The Freelancer, in which the staff put a spotlight on teenage sexuality – including a column on homosexuality, a campus sex quiz and a glossary of sexually oriented medical terms – pushed the edgy publication to the extreme in the eyes of some school administrators and parents. In the fallout, the newspaper’s advisor was pressured to resign, the school banned the June edition of The Freelancer, and the newspaper staff is now working with a civil rights watchdog group on a possible lawsuit against La Serna Principal Martin Plourde. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2“It was supposed to be educational, just to show the risks” of adolescent sexual behavior, said Clair Webster, one of The Freelancer’s two student editors. “We chose sex and sexuality for our May issue to bring awareness that there are risks involved in intercourse,” she added. But parents complained about the May issue and some teachers removed the newspaper from classrooms. Freelancer co-editor Sergio Hernandez said he and Webster realized they were taking on a loaded subject when they decided on the theme. “We had always been disappointed with the fluffy, trite stuff the paper focused on when we were assistant editors last year,” Hernandez said.