Mo. principal tells student editors they cannot publish pregnancy ad

MISSOURI — A proposal to accept advertising for apregnancy center in the February edition of the Corral at Parkway CentralHigh School sparked concern from administrators, eventually leading to theprincipal rejecting the ad.Corral staffers contend the decisionabout what advertising content to accept should be left to the students.Early this year, Susan Erwin, president of the Pregnancy ResourceCenter, contacted the Corral to place an advertisement that offered womena “free and confidential” pregnancy screening. The PregnancyResource Center locations in the St. Louis area also provide adoptioninformation and parenting classes.Corral adviser Diane Boyle saidthe paper follows an open advertising policy, only rejecting politicaladvertising and ads for products that are illegal for high schoolstudents.Because this would have been the Corral’s firstadvertisement related to reproductive services, student editors put the proposalto a staff-wide vote. Editor in chief Jonathan Kealing said the vote was“overwhelmingly in favor of printing the ad.”Kealing said hedecided to check the staff’s decision with their principal, Bill Myer,because he was concerned that the ad might be viewed ascontroversial.“I thought [Principal Myer] would honestly be moreupset if we printed it and he hadn’t heard about it,” Kealing said.“I really didn’t think he was going to say no.”Myersaid that he took the ad to a meeting with the other high school principals inthe Parkway School District and they decided not to allow any of the newspaperstaffs in the district to accept advertising related to pregnancyservices.Myer said that because high school students can be as young as13-years-old, he was concerned that the ad was not age appropriate. “Wedon’t want students to publish material that is unsuitable for theaudiences of these publications,” Myer said.He said that he feltit was appropriate for high school students to be making decisions regardingpregnancy in conjunction with their parents.Myer also said he wasconcerned that accepting the Pregnancy Resource Center ad would force thenewspaper to accept ads from any reproductive service organization, regardlessof their views on abortion or birth control. He said he did not want that to bea practice of the student newspaper.Myer cited the Equal Access Law,which generally applies to equal usage of school facilities for allextra-curricular activities. The federal law requires schools, which allow onegroup access to campus, to allow all lawful groups seeking space the sameaccess. And Myer contends the law would require equal space fornewspaper advertising. However, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled in 1997that school officials have no obligation to provide equal access to advertisingspace in a student publication as long as student editors are making thedecision of which ads to reject.In reaction to the administrators’decision, the Corral ran a Page One article about the banned ad includinga darkened version of the Pregnancy Resource Center ad with the word“censored” across it.The article quoted Kealing saying,“While we respect the administration’s right to limit certainadvertisements, we believe that the greater limits they place, the lesseffective our paper becomes.”Myer said the decision to block thead is a rare, but necessary decision and that this does not signal that he wantsprior review of the Corral.However, the right of students to makeadvertising decisions remains in question as the school advertising policiesawait a review process by the district.District language artscoordinator Nancy Rathjen will hold meetings to revise the advertising policiesof all four Parkway School District high schools. Rathjen was notavailable for comment, but Myer said the newspaper advisers and Rathjen wouldmeet in the summer to revise the policies. He said this happens every fewyears.Corral editors said they are hopeful that students will beinvolved in the revision process and that students will retain control over thedecisions of what ads are allowed in their newspapers.“Idon’t know how much influence we’ll have,” Kealing said,“but I think we’ll have a chance to speak ourminds.”

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