Students publish previously censored article on homosexuality

CALIFORNIA — Student journalists at East Bakersfield High School printed a previously censored spread on sexual orientation in the student newspaper Friday.

Principal John Gibson banned the articles from The Kernal last year, citing concerns of violence against the openly gay students quoted in the articles.

But the principal never provided evidence to support his claim that violence would occur if the articles were published, said Maria Krauter, who wrote one of the articles in question and is The Kernal’s current editor in chief.

"Our campus is no more prone to violence than any other," Krauter said. "I think he [Gibson] underestimated the tolerance of our school and community. I think he thought he was being cautious, but he shouldn’t have pulled the articles in fear of bullies."

Gibson did not return calls seeking comment.

Krauter said the articles received a positive response at East Bakersfield upon publication, saying she did not hear any negative comments.

The spread included interviews with openly gay students on campus about how they are treated, an in-depth interview with a gay student and her mother and interviews with a student and a local pastor who feel homosexuality is wrong. The spread also included research that has been done about homosexuality and a story that listed statistics on homosexuality in America and violence against gays.

Randy Hamm, The Kernal’s adviser, said in May that permission slips were obtained from the parents of all the students interviewed for the articles.

After the articles were censored last spring the students sued the school district with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California seeking a temporary restraining order forcing Gibson to allow publication.

Kern County Superior Court Judge Arthur Wallace did not grant the order, saying in May more facts and a full hearing were needed before a decision could be made, according to an attorney representing the students.

Krauter said that even though the articles have now been printed the students will continue with the lawsuit, hoping for a hearing in the near future.

"It won’t be a victory for student journalists everywhere until we have a precedent in the legal system," she said.

It is important for student newspapers to be able to cover issues that are relevant to their schools, Krauter said, adding, "high school students shouldn’t be sheltered from things that they’re already dealing with."

by Clay Gaynor, SPLC staff writer

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