School censors editorial that mentions sexually explicit Top 25 List

PENNSYLVANIA — Administrators at aPittsburgh high school stopped the student newspaper there from publishing aneditorial Monday about the local media coverage surrounding a sexually explicit”Top25 List” that was recently circulated among students.

Theeditorial would have appeared inthe monthly issue of The Devil’s Advocate at Mt. LebanonHigh School. But school officials banned the piece because it mentioned thelist. The list contained sexually graphic descriptions of female students at theschool along with their pictures. The list, which surfaced this spring, alsograded the female students based on their breasts, buttocks and faces.

No one on the staff of the student newspaper was involved in creating the original list and the editorial did not include any of the descriptions or student images.

The school has suspended one student for his part in creating thelist, and a parent has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Mt.Lebanon School District, according to astory in thePittsburghPost-Gazette.

Naomi Blaushild, former editor in chief and acurrent section editor for TheDevil’s Advocate, said thatalthough the editorial made basic references to the ”Top 25 List,”the piece was primarily meant to be a criticism of thePittsburgh Post-Gazette‘sextensive news coverage of the list.

”They printed the story onthe front page three times, so as journalists we thought that was kind ofridiculous,” Blaushild said. ”Basically our editorial criticizedthat. We didn’t express an opinion on the list itself. We mentioned itobviously, but we talked more about how the

Post Gazette‘s coverage of thelist was inappropriate.”

Current editor in chief Jenny Schmidtsaid the purpose of the editorial was not to further sensationalize theissue.

”We as a newspaper as a whole felt we weren’tdrawing attention to the ‘Top 25 List’ as much as we were defendingthem [the students listed] and saying this shouldn’t have happened tothem,” Schmidt said.

Ben Howard, opinions editor of the studentnewspaper, said administrators objected to any mention of the list in thenewspaper because they thought it would further upset the students specificallynamed on the list.

”It was censored because it mentioned the’Top 25 List,’ just because we had those words in theeditorial,” Howard said. ”And we really thought that this wasunreasonable and probably inappropriate considering thelaws.”

Howard said the newspaper staff is not interested intaking legal action against the school in order to publish the editorial.Instead, they printed a new piece titled”Editorial censored byadministration,” which school officials allowed the paper to publish. Thiseditorial referenced thePennsylvaniaAdministrative Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which states

”students have the right to express themselves unless such expressionmaterially and substantially interferes with the educational process, threatensimmediate harm to the welfare of the school or community, encourages unlawfulactivity, or interferes with another individual’srights.”

Cissy Bowman, director of communications at Mt.Lebanon, declined to comment outside of a writtenstatement released by the schoolTuesday. According to the statement, the editorial was pulled because schoolofficials ”determined that any articles concerning this matter [the’Top 25 List’] would interfere with the rights” of thestudents named on the list.