Principal confiscates 2,400 newspapers because of ‘backyard wrestling’ article

CALIFORNIA — The principal of Nogales High School confiscated2,400 copies of the student newspaper Feb. 24, citing problemswith a feature article about "backyard wrestling."

According to the article in The Scroll,backyard wrestling"takes place on homemade wrestling rings or on trampolinesin back yards. Most participants include kids ranging from tento twenty [years old]." The article also discussed differentforms of backyard wrestling, including "hard-core" matches,which allow wrestlers "to use weapons, such as metal chairsor bats, against each other."

In a memo to the journalism students about his decision toconfiscate the newspapers, principal Marv Abrams said, "Ourcampus newspaper does not exist as a forum for irresponsibilityand nonsense. We don’t print stories about teenage Nazis, hard-drinkingseniors, or people who hit each other over the head with ladders."

Abrams also cited the photo of two boys wrestling on a mattressas a reason why he confiscated the newspapers.

"We are not going to run pictures of people on mattresses,I don’t care what they’re doing," he said in the memo.

But Keith Smith, editor of The Scroll,said he saw nothingwrong with the article. He said he is worried that the principal’sactions in this situation could set a precedent for future censorshipof the newspaper.

Under California law, principals can review school-sponsoredpublications prior to distribution, but have limited power tocensor articles. School administrators may only censor a publicationfor certain reasons, such as libel, slander or the likelihoodthat an article will cause a substantial disruption in the schoolday.

The staff of The Scrollpublished another version ofthe confiscated newspaper without the wrestling article, but Smithsaid students plan to fight the principal’s censorship to ensurethat it does not occur again.