Two Houston area schools censor stories about gay students

Articles about homosexuality were pulled from student publications at two Houston area high schools when administrators deemed the content too controversial.

The student newspaper at Hastings High School in Houston and the yearbook at Cinco Ranch High School in Katy both had planned articles addressing the struggles of being a homosexual student. After administrators at each school reviewed the contents of the publications, student journalists were told they would have to cut the articles.

Publication of the Bear Facts at Hastings High School was delayed several weeks before principal David Holmquist censored a centerspread article about the stereotypes and abuse that gay and lesbian teens face every day.

The article was originally slated for the April edition of the newspaper. Administrators objected to it and asked the paper to change the names of the students who were interviewed. Despite those revisions, Holmquist pulled the article because, he said, it was too controversial for the school.

Editor Askari Mohammad said the paper ended up combining the April and May editions as a result of the censorship debacle. In the combined edition that was distributed May 23, the Bear Facts ran an editorial criticizing the administration for pulling the story.

“They’re giving us vague reasons as to why the story cannot run,” Mohammad said, “but they aren’t giving any possible solutions or what we can do. They aren’t specifying what’s wrong with the story — if any thing at all — from their point of view.”

When asked why he pulled the story, Holmquist answered: “controversial.” He refused to elaborate.

“It’s to my benefit that I can pull some [articles] and not pull others,” Holmquist said. “It’s my choice, it’s my job to do that.”

Mohammad, who stands behind the story, said this is not the first time the paper and administration have not seen eye-to-eye. The paper has criticized the school’s use of Social Security numbers on student IDs as a possible means of identity theft and pressured the school to change a policy in which students were suspended for having spiked hair.

“We’re an award-winning staff with a great adviser [Dianne Smith] who’s been in the field of journalism for 26 years,” Mohammad said. “Even the people who wrote the story — David Rosen and Christina Tran — it’s not like they don’t know what they’re doing. They are experienced staffers and great writers.”

At Cinco Ranch High School, located in a Houston suburb, the censorship developed from unusual circumstances. The Panorama yearbook had already been printed and was set for distribution on May 15 when co-editor Robbie McMillin and his staff discovered the printing company forgot to make several corrections and mixed up the color scheme.

The publisher of the yearbook agreed to make the changes and reprint 1,800 copies. In the meantime, however, administrators asked McMillin to make several other changes, including cutting some content they found too risqu