Principal censors 'choking game' article

PENNSYLVANIA –A high school journalist who wanted to inform other teens about the dangers ofplaying the “choking game” was told by administrators last month that runningthe article might be too dangerous.

Danielle Hibler, a student atCanon-McMillan High School in Canon, Penn., wrote an article called “Adangerous game exposed” which detailed the death of a 15-year-old girlfrom Kansas who died while cutting off her air supply as a means of gettinghigh.

Before each issue, the C-M Times faculty adviser gives the articles to an administrator for review. The proof pages came back with a big “X” through the choking game story, Hibler said.

The night the article was censored, Hibler wenthome to see a TV news report about the death of a 13-year-old boy in a nearbydistrict who was thought to have died from engaging in intentionalchoking.

While it is hard to gauge how many kids have participated inthe choking game, Hibler said while researching her article, several classmatestold her they had made themselves or others pass out for fun.

Principal Linda Nichols said the article was not suitable to printbecause it might spur more people to copy the game. Nichols also cited otherreasons for the censorship saying the article was medically inaccurate and thatparents — not a student newspaper — should discuss the choking gamewith kids.

After talking with several administrators, Hibler wasfrustrated that her article would not be published and contacted thePittsburgh Post-Gazette, which ran thearticle on March 12 along with a story about Hibler’s fight to get herstory printed.

Hibler said the first week of her journalism classfocused on First Amendment rights and adviser Susan Humbertson told students ifthey felt those rights were being violated, they should fight for them.Humbertson said she “was advised not to make any comments” about thearticle to the media.

Hibler is planning on putting up a fight tomake sure students read her story. She said she is considering printing thearticle herself and passing it out at school so her classmates can be aware ofthe danger of playing the game.

Students need to hear about the dangers of oxygen deprivation as a game from a peer, Hibler said.

“With the choking game, kids teach other kids thegame,” Hibler said. “If your parent is telling you not to do it, youdon’t want to listen to them as much as if a peer is telling youit’s dangerous.”

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, sinceHibler’s article was censored she has gained national attention. Her storyhas been featured in various newspapers; she was a guest on a local radio showwhich drew in tons of calls and e-mails; she was invited to speak on pressfreedom at St. Bonaventure University and has been contacted by a faculty memberin the University of Arizona journalism department to try and get her to enrollas a student.