High school newspapers struggle in fight against censorship

Calvin Prenkert, Staff Writer

The Plainfield High School newspaper, “The Shakedown”, has made headlines in the past few weeks because of its controversial subject matter. The issue, entitled “Plainfield’s High School’s Dating Survival Guide Declassified”, deals with managing a successful and healthy dating life in a high school environment. It also aims to clarify terms like “friends with benefits” and “sexting” without being graphic or inappropriate. The paper itself is a timely take on important issues and, seemingly, rather well thought out and careful in its presentation of the sensitive subject matter.

 

So where did it go wrong?

 

Several days after the paper was released, irate parents took to social media to complain about the content published in the magazine. Regardless of the way it’s presented, it seems like a high school paper with anything even remotely related to dating or sexual education was doomed to receive backlash from the start. This will likely act as a catalyst for Indiana school systems, forcing more restrictions on high school newspapers.

 

In a recent Herald Times article, executive director of the Indiana High School Press Association Ryan Gunterman explained what the restrictions put on school newspapers would be like if implemented in other school extracurriculars. “The principal doesn’t go and ask the football coach for the game plan to approve it before the game is played,” he said.”

 

However, this scrutiny from the public shouldn’t come as a surprise.

 

Students and teachers have been fighting a longstanding battle for free expression for student newspapers for many years.This past spring, an act, called “Young Voices”, that was devised by student journalists and advisers that would’ve strengthened student journalists right to freely express news and opinions without censorship was passed by the Indiana House with a vote of 88-4. Unfortunately, the act was stonewalled at the last second in upper legislation because of hyperbolic claims that students would be writing about inappropriate topics that would reflect poorly on the school system.

 

For now, it seems that freedom of the press doesn’t apply to everyone, and that, however hard high school publications try to surmount it, censorship is still an ever present issue.