School newspaper censored over tattoo articles
“The Wolf’s Howl” is the student newspaper at Timberland High School in Missouri. At the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year, the student journalists ran into a problem with their coverage on the subject of tattoos. A story and editorial on the subject discussed the health risks involved and the meaning of tattoos. They were pulled at the last minute by the principal without explanation. Missouri law prohibits tattoos for anyone under 18 unless written consent from a parent or legal guardian is obtained in the presence of the tattoo artist.
Both sides of the issue relied on their interpretation of the Hazelwood case – the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing schools to exercise editorial control over school-sponsored expressive activities including yearbooks and newspapers.
Today, April 16, 2010, students from across the country meet in Portland, Oregon for the National High School Journalism Convention. In support of the Timberland students who were censored, the day is celebrated as “Timberland Tattoo Solidarity Day.” Convention-goers will be asked to wear a temporary tattoo that reads “Tattoos are temporary – ignorance is permanent.”
If you were at this convention in Portland, would you wear the message in support of the Timberland journalism students? Do you know the rules regarding censorship at your school? Do you agree with them? Why or why not? Are you familiar with the Hazelwood case? You can read more about it and the freedom of expression in school here.