Valentine’s Day edition of school newspaper backfires on journalists
The Hellgate Lance is the student newspaper from Hellgate High School in Missoula, Montana. The issue published for Valentine’s Day, 2012 focused on love and sex (mainly sex). Articles covered the pros and cons of pornography and friends with benefits. The journalists encouraged trying bisexuality this Valentine’s Day and chocolate or sexy lingerie.
School policy grants prior review of content by the administration. As a consequence of the February, 2012 edition of the Lance, the principal decided to exercise his right to review future issues. The school’s publication policy allows controversial issues if treated in depth and represent a variety of viewpoints. Articles that are libelous, obscene or profane or cause a substantial disruption at school may be censored. This is in line with the 1988 Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. The school determined that the Valentine Day issue violated the policy.
The essay “In Defense of Pornography” opined that pornography is a healthy form of sexual expression for men, women and teenagers. The article included addresses for free pornographic websites and told students how easy it is to bypass age restrictions.
Some parents supported the school’s action since the issue was pro-pornography without any balance. One parent criticized the imposition of prior review as a conservative act against the journalism department and an over-reaction of a few. What do you think? Should the school have a say in what’s printed in the school newspaper? What about content in the yearbook or a student play? Should students have full control over what they write or say in the school setting? Why or why not?