Parents, principal in Wash. criticize articles on sex, condom use

Sex, a hot topic among teens, sparked an incendiary reaction around the Wenatchee community.

Parents in Wenatchee, Wash., were angered by an article in the student newspaper about the proper use of a condom, which included a drawing similar to those inside condom boxes of a condom being put on some fingers. The illustration was part of a series on sexuality in The Apple Leaf.

Following publication, some parents complained that the series violated their rights under the the Protection of Pupil Rights Act, sometimes called the Hatch Amendment, which gives parents the right to review student surveys or instructional material on specific topics (including sex education) before it is included in the curriculum.

The complaints prompted the principal to put into practice a policy left dormant for years: review of the paper prior to publication.

That decision sparked criticism from newspaper staff.

“The Hatch Amendment doesn’t apply because we don’t force people to look at our material,” editor Steve Boni said. “What runs in the paper isn’t part of the curriculum.”

The series was introduced in a staff editorial, claiming the need to provide more information on sexuality since “the health curriculum doesn’t do enough to educate students about the reality and consequences of sexuality.”

It goes on to state the paper’s goal: “clear up misconceptions” about sexuality seeded by society and to bring the topic out in the open to “make the subject less taboo within the student body, or even in the Wenatchee community.”

The spread featured a straightforward dialogue on topics like homosexuality and abortion, which were tackled by a diverse group of students.

“The students are mostly supportive,” managing editor Jeannie Tucker said. “A lot of people were shocked at first but a lot said it’s about time somebody printed this or said this because it’s in the curriculum but not taught.”

Principal Mike Franza is now reviewing all the editions before publication, claiming that the Jan. 30 articles violated school district policy.

“It’s just so frustrating that [Franza] seemed so supportive before of our publication and now he seems concerned he has to review the paper,” Boni said.

SPLC View: As discussed above, I think school officials here are clearly misguided in attempting to equate material produced by a student-edited newspaper with teaching material produced by professional educators that is part of the school’s official curriculum. Moreover, the Protection of Pupil Rights Act only regulates mandatory surveys, not the sort of optional