Colo. students’ articles about birth control, STDs will be published

COLORADO — Two reporters at Pomona High School’s student newspaper, Pomona Perspective, will likely have their articles about sexually transmitted diseases and birth control published, after the students initially thought the stories were being censored by administrators.

The articles were not published in the February issue after the journalism instructor and newspaper adviser, Toni Freeman, told the students, Stephanie Siefried and Katie Bolson, that the administration opposed the articles.

But Jefferson County School District spokesman Rick Kaufman said that a March 30 meeting between Principal Terry LaValley, Assistant Principal Victoria Kaye, Freeman and Superintendent Cindy Stevenson resolved the situation by clarifying that the stories simply needed to not contain vulgar language or offensive content in order to be published. According to Kaufman, the articles did not contain vulgar language but could have been considered offensive because they contained an explanation on how to use condoms, diaphragms and lubricants.

Colorado’s Student Free Expression Law prohibits expression in student media that is obscene, defamatory, creates a clear and present danger, causes a material or substantial disruption at the school, or violates others’ rights to privacy. Aside from these limitations, student editors of school-sponsored publications retain the authority to determine the content.

Prior to writing the articles, Siefried and Bolson met with Freeman to propose stories about sexually transmitted diseases and different methods of birth control, including condoms and the pill. Siefried and Bolson also told Freeman they wanted to survey students about their sexual activity.

Following that meeting and a later review of the students’ articles, Freeman met with the assistant principal to express her “discomfort” with the content, Kaufman said. Without viewing the articles, Kaye informed Freeman that, according to district policy, the students needed to “balance” their articles in order to accommodate and avoid offending “minor” students, according to Kaufman. But Freeman instead told the students that the administration opposed the articles and they were removed from the February issue, Kaufman said.

In a March 29 article in the Denver Post, Siefried said the articles should have been published.

“In our lives, this is the happening thing right now,” Siefried said. “This is when our sexuality develops and we want to help people make the right decisions from the beginning.”

LaValley reviews all articles before they are published in the journalism class’s newspaper, as part of the school’s prior review policy. Kaufman claims that Colorado law allows for the principal’s prior review if the newspaper operates as part of a course curriculum and students receive a grade or credit for their involvement. However, nothing in the state student free expression law makes reference to prior review.

LaValley is reviewing the articles, Kaufman said. According to Kaufman, the articles will “likely” be published in the March issue.

–By Britt Hulit