Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Narrowmindedness is alive, but not so well...

If high school is a place for learning some of life’s lessons that will stick with you for years and years, then the students of Tennessee’s Oak Ridge High School are getting a civics lesson in spades.

School administrators last week seized copies of the student newspaper….all 1,800 copies. The issue, two articles, one of which talked about the success rates for various birth control methods to avoid teen pregnancy. The second article was about student tattoos and body piercings.

The school has said that they will reprint the newspaper minus the story on birth control and with an edited tattoo story. At a Monday night meeting of the school board, the large attendance included students who wore tape with the word “censored” across their mouths, as well as shirts printed with the statement “Ignorance isn’t bliss.”

The article on birth control said that contraceptives were available to students from doctors and the local health department. School Superintendent, Tom Bailey, said that the article would need to edited so that it was acceptable for the entire student population. The author, Krystal Meyers, stated that her article was meant to inform students of their right to obtain birth control without parental permission. She further stated that “A lot of kids don’t know that it is their right.”

One parent, Jackie Moreno, stated that parents should be the ones to give their children information about sex. Another parent, Joseph Oswald, said that the “article talks about subverting parental authority”.

(News flash for Ms. Moreno: GET TO IT. If parents were doing their job then articles like the one in question would not be needed… And as for Mr. Oswald, hate to tell you but you‘re kids are going to do the ‘things that kids do‘ and it has nothing to do with subverting authority, and if you are referring to the fact that your kids can get birth control without needing your permission, I think you need to take that up with the state government, so zip it…)

Many of the students as well as some parents are obviously upset with the school’s action and are talking with attorneys about next steps. Being that a school board is an elected body and therefore a part of the local government, the action of seizure raises some very touchy issues. David Stuart, a local attorney who met with a group of students on Monday evening said, “It’s not a small thing for a government to confiscate a newspaper.” The ACLU and the Student Press Law Center are also talking with students concerning legal representation.

The article on birth control said that contraceptives were available to students from doctors and the local health department. School Superintendent, Tom Bailey, said that the article would need to edited so that it was acceptable for the entire student population. He also said that many of the students are only 14 and that language in the article was inappropriate. Ms. Meyers responded that she used medical terminology in her article to keep it informative and professional.

The schools principle, Becky Ervin, also advised that she wanted the tattoo story changed because four of the students pictured in the article are underage for tattoos or body piercings. One of the students pictured had not told her parents about having gotten a tattoo.

Ok, give me a break. A state where you can get contraceptives at age 14 but you cannot get a tattoo? I would rather have my son go and pick up some contraceptives after getting a tattoo (both of which come packaged and sterilized) then have him sneak behind my back and get a tattoo after telling me that his girlfriend is pregnant because he could not obtain any contraception.

But I digress, there are many issues here, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and right to privacy to name a few. Not to mention that Oak Ridge Tennessee, just like a lot of other towns, is evidently full of narrow minded people who still believe that if you do not talk to their kids about sex and preventing pregnancy that kids will never think of sex on their own.


According to studies, approximately 25% of 15 year olds have had sexual intercourse, and by age 17 more than 50% have had intercourse, and I am sure that most of those teens parents didn’t talk to them about sex. Also of note is that at these same ages the number of teens who have had oral sex is even higher than those who have had intercourse.

Wake up folks, as the students of Oak Ridge High School stated, “Ignorance isn’t bliss”, and message to the school board: Big mistake guys and gals, censorship is a serious issue with legal repercussions even when it involves a student newspaper. Next time think before you act, then think again....


peachblossom said...

I agree whole heartedly with you on these subjects. If parents weren't so busy with their "lives" and actually sat down at night and discussed their days with the family, they might ...just might have a clue as to what their teenagers were doing with their time away from the house and school.

It is a parents' responsibility to teach the majoprity of morals, ethics, religion, and yes...even sex education. It has only fallen to the schools because not enough parents are RESPONSIBLE for the upbringing of their children.

The school was extremely wrong in censoring the student body on both subjects. The information is out there for the children to get their hands on, but how often is the information given to children by their peers correct.

We, as parents, can step up to the plate and teach and or listen to our children, making sure that the information they are receiving is correct, or we can go on being ignorant,hopeful and "totally without a clue" when it pertains to our children and what they are doing when they are not with us.

I, for one, am teaching all 3 of my children what they need to know and am not depending on the schools or others to do my teaching for me. If parents are not going to step out of their comfort zones and broach subjects that might be uncomfortable to discuss then they should wait for the reprocussions of their actions...or lack of actions.

Chris said...

My mom's a retired high school English teacher and counselor, who's heard, many times, "The school needs to teach my kid respect," (or something along those lines). It's NOT the school's job. Nor is it the school's job to teach kids (or prevent them from being taught) about birth control.

That being said, high school student newspapers don't enjoy the same free speech rights that the public media enjoys. That's just the law, and reasonable people can debate the widsom of that choice.

What these kids understand, however, that lots of educators and parents don't, is that evey very well raised kids with frank and constant moral education from their parents STILL HAVE SEX. It's never been otherwise, it will never be otherwise. The whole debate is ridiculous - they're going to do it. Period. Give them contraceptives.

Scott said...

I agree that it is not the schools job to teach these types of issues to the kids. Unfortunately as Chris so aptly points out, the parents aren't doing it either.

How about the parents teaching their own kids about respect? Kind of tough when many of the parents themselves don't show it to others. As a parent myself, I see the parents of some of my sons classmates and wonder how they make it through life?

In this case, a student is taking a responsible position and trying to help educate her peers. Instead of being applauded for this she is being stomped on by those in a position of authority who are fearful due to ignorance.

Thanks for the comments. I do appreciate your thoughts on the posts.