Tattoo ads pulled from student newspaper
The Wolf’s Howl is the student newspaper at Timberland High School in Wentzville, Missouri. In October, 2009, the principal removed an article and editorial about tattoos. He further announced that tattoo ads in the paper were to be cancelled.
The principal explained that tattoos are in the same category as drugs and alcohol and is therefore subject to censorship. He further commented that most students were under the statutory age limit to get a tattoo without parental permission. In Missouri, you must be 18 to be tattooed unless a parent or guardian is present and signs a written consent.
The leading case regarding school censorship of student written expression is Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988). The court approved censorship by the school when the expression conflicts with the school’s educational mission. Since a school newspaper is not a public forum, open to anyone, the school may, within reason, restrict its content.
Hazelwood was a Missouri case. It’s interesting that over the past twenty years, the state hasn’t passed a Student Free Expression Law to prevent prior review of high school newspaper content. Perhaps this incident will spark discussion of the subject and possible legislation.
Do you consider tattoos to be in the same category as drugs and alcohol? Is there a difference that sets tattoos apart from the others, thereby rendering them an acceptable topic? Should the faculty or administration be able to limit the discussion of certain subjects by students in the school paper, yearbook or play? Why or why not?