High School Administration Teaches Student Journalists Valuable Lesson: We Will Censor You Early And Often
Did you do high school journalism way back in the day when you had to do layout with a knife and the hot glue roller thing, or was that just us? SHUT UP WE ARE NOT THAT OLD. High school journalism has gotten downright good looking in the Internet era and apparently also got hard-hitting, which is a lot different than when we had to do fluff columns on the football teams.
Some students in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, did a piece for their school newspaper on rape, rape jokes, and rape culture. This seems like a good thing for the high school newspaper to tackle, right? And they actually did it in a respectful, sensitive, interesting, relevant way, but because you should learn early on that life is terrible, they got in trouble with the administration rather than getting praise.
The piece tackled the story of one student who had been raped by a friend and another who had been molested by an uncle. They even dealt with rape jokes in a much less stupid way than grown people deal with rape jokes.
Only 46% of surveyed students believe that sexual abuse or harassment is an issue at Fond du Lac High School, but 80% of them have heard a rape joke in the past month. That’s the rape joke. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexualy assaulted before their eighteenth birthday. That’s the rape joke. 60% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. That’s the rape joke. While reading this article you saw words like penetration, genital scarring, felatio, fngering and incest and did a double take. By the time you will have finished reading this, 11 people will have been sexually assaulted. That’s the rape joke.
Now ask yourself-- did you laugh?
The piece also provided links to resources for students so that it wasn't just a horror parade of awful with no way for students who might be affected to reach out and get help. You'd think this would have led to the high school administration being very supportive of the paper and pleased with them tackling such a difficult issue, right? You are dumb.
School district officials in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have instituted new guidelines for student journalists after a high school newspaper published a story on the dangers of rape culture.
Under the new guidelines, the school district — as represented by Principal Jon Wiltzius — will determine what the students can write about. “The newspaper, Cardinal Columns, is a publication of Fond du Lac High School so there is the ability for the principal or the advisor or the superintendent to oversee any of these publications.”
While you are probably yelling about how this is some bullshit BECAUSE THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT it is also regrettably totally legal, thanks to your United States Supreme Court, which decided back in 1988 that if the school publication is part of the curriculum -- which student newspapers generally are -- then it is a publication owned by the school, essentially, which means that the school can exercise prior restraint and stop students from writing things they don't like. Worse, the Supremes took special care to concern troll about how some subjects -- in that case, divorce -- are just too difficult for the tender minds of students to deal with, so censor away! Which, of course, is probably why this gomer of a principal thought that the best way to deal with your high school newspaper actually functioning as a useful organ of communication was to hobble it so that it never could again.
Pro-tip to student journalists everywhere: the Supreme Court case in question only dealt with official school papers and the like, so you might as well get your gonzo journalism career started now and write an underground paper where you can say anything you goddamn well please, except if you do something stupid like advocating violence at school or bullying people or being an asshole, in which case you will get expelled thanks to a different Supreme Court case, so don't do that. You'll thank us for this wise advice later.