Town Square

Furor erupts over sex, drug stories in school paper

Original post made on Feb 15, 2013

For the second time in less than a month, high school district officials have come under fire from a group of parents upset over articles published in The Oracle, Mountain View High School's student newspaper.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 15, 2013, 5:04 PM


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Posted by Sean
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Feb 15, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I feel sorry for the younger freshman kids, but with the internet,social media sites, smart phones the information is always a click away anyway.

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Posted by Wo\'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

IMO, the most interesting question that the recent articles by Nick Veronin raise is this: Do parents have the right to control the ideas that their children and teenagers are exposed to? Do parents have the right to "shelter" their children and teenagers? What is the essential nature of the job of parenting a teenager, anyway? Is the parent of a teenager only a meal ticket and nothing more?

My opinion is that parents do have the right to completely control the ideas that their children and teenagers are exposed to. Parents do have the right to shelter their children and teenagers.

The concept of sheltering does not just apply to minors. It is the essence of the conflict over the definition of "marriage", i.e. over whether some forms of queer sexuality should be legitimized. Somehow, we must reconcile our desire for freedom of speech with our desire to be sheltered, to not be exposed to ideas that we disagree with or that put us on the defensive.

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Posted by Paul Kandell
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 15, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Paul Kandell is a registered user.

As journalism advisers working in Bay Area high schools, who regularly work with student journalists covering controversial subjects, we can tell you that it is a huge disservice by the Mountain View Voice and MVLA district staff not to ground this discussion in the shining light of California Education Code 48907 (Web Link), which grants students in California what are essentially the strongest press rights of any students in the world.

Supt. Groves says he takes "ultimate responsibility" for what is published in the Oracle, but that is in large part not possible. Ed. Code 48907 — which supercedes the more popularly known (and restrictive) Hazelwood standard — states quite clearly that student editors — not district employees — are responsible for the content of campus publications, "whether or not the publications or other means of expression are supported financially by the school or by use of school facilities."

The only allowed limitations on students are for work that is "obscene, libelous, or slanderous ... or that so incites pupils as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school."

We doubt very much that this standard has been breached by the Oracle staff. The only specific charge parents are making that seems relevant is a violation of the obscenity standard, but there would never be a finding by a court that what was published in the Oracle was obscene because nobody can agree on what that standard should be.

Ed. Code 48907 and its companion legislation Ed. Code 48950 are crystal clear: If a journalism adviser, principal or superintendent move to interfere with student publications without just cause (see the very limited acceptable causes noted above), then those school staffs put themselves and their institutions at risk of being hit with legal action.

What’s more, the law also makes it clear that students may not be punished for engaging in expression that would be protected by the First Amendment AND that it is illegal to dismiss, suspend, discipline, reassign, transfer, or otherwise retaliate against a school employee (for instance, a journalism adviser) for supporting students’ Constitutionally protected free speech.

Hold fast, Oracle staff. You are on firm legal ground. The Student Press Law Center, which offers free legal counsel to students facing censorship, should be your next phone call and will tell you as much.

Paul Kandell, Mountain View resident
- Board member, Journalism Education Association of Northern California
- Member, Student Press Law Center steering committee
- 2009 Dow Jones News Fund National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year

Ellen Austin
- Board member, Journalism Education Association of Northern California
- Chair, Student Press Law Center steering committee
- 2012 Dow Jones News Fund National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year

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Posted by Wo'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2013 at 6:32 am

Wo'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
[Post removed due to promoting a website]

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Posted by Rachel B.
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Rachel B. is a registered user.

Thank you for your comments, Paul Kandell, specifying the legal protections for student speech in school newspapers in California. It is unbelievable that the MVLA school district and the superintendent present at the last meeting did not mention the role of the law in how the school will handle the disgruntled parents' complaints. Even more unbelievable is that the article in the Mountain View Voice failed to recognized the key issue in the facts being reported. The school board members are parents who understandably may not regularly contemplate the potential issues between the press and the right to free speech, but shame on the Mountain View Voice for being so ignorant.

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Posted by CBMV
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 18, 2013 at 3:42 pm

CBMV is a registered user.

I finding it very amusing that the same parents that fight fiercely to get the best education for their kids are the same ones fighting one of the best schools in the area over such a inoffensive school paper article.
We have the privilege of living in a community where diversity of cultures, opinions and backgrounds is not only a fact but also an asset for a well-rounded education. Mountain View High is an incredible place, where students not only thrive intellectually but are also serving as an example to their parents’ generation on civility and tolerance. Our students are smart, well informed, open-minded and capable. Limiting them on what they do or say is not only wrong, but also ineffective.
Do you really want to be an involved parent? Stop closing your eyes and let your kid get educated about sex before it is too late.

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Posted by Skuborssy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2013 at 4:34 pm

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I completely agree with CBMV.

Being a recent graduate at MVHS, I know that these issues talked about in the Oracle are in fact issues that need to be addressed. With the technology we have these days, kids are learning about sex and drugs at younger ages. Are these parents against Sex Ed in health class as well? What about social media and tv shows such as Teen Mom and The Real World?

If anything, these articles should be praised. Kids are becoming sexually active as early as middle school and promoting safe sex should not be frowned upon.

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Posted by Wo\'O Ideafarm
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Wo\'O Ideafarm is a registered user.

This discussion has not shown respect for and comprehension of the opposing view. Teaching children and teenagers about sex is one thing. Promoting sexual activity is another. No one is taking issue with sex education. The issue is whether the student body and/or the administrators have created an environment that promotes sexual activity, including sexual activity such as masturbation that is widely, in the larger community, viewed as harmful both to the individual and to society.

The "marriage norm viewpoint" says that no one, and especially not teenagers who are still on the formative path to becoming adults, should masturbate. It is difficult to see a student newspaper article on masturbation other than as an attack on the marriage norm viewpoint. Does that newspaper provide equal time to the opposing viewpoint that students should not engage in any sexual behavior before marriage (male to female) and that masturbation is prohibited for life? Is the viewpoint that our reproductive equipment exists for the production of children, not for the production of pleasure, given equal time in student speech on campus? Are students familiar with the view that masterbation, promiscuity, and same gender sexual intimacy are abuses of our reproductive equipment and are harmful perversions?

In short, is there vigorous, respectful discussion on campus on sexual mores, or do we just have a mob environment that silences anyone who would oppose group-think?