Two Ohio high school newspapers now subject to advisory board criticism

OHIO — Two student newspapers in a central Ohio school district are now subject to an advisory panel’s criticism after the programs received negative feedback from parents over articles on sex.

A meeting between administrators and teachers in the Olentangy School District was held April 12 to develop a “short-term” plan to address the concerns of the community, according to Executive Director of Secondary Education Eric Gordon.

Olentangy Liberty High School’s student newspaper, The Cannon, ran a satirical piece on teenage sexuality and a news article on date rape in its April 5 issue that raised questions of appropriateness from parents, district spokesperson Amanda Morris said.

Adviser Catherine Boone said the satirical piece covered how boys and girls view each other, using “pop culture terms.”

“The point [of the article] is that girls are offended by the way they’re seen,” Boone said. “I don’t believe there was any intent to do anything inflammatory with that article.”

The incident follows a conflict at Olentangy High School, another high school in the Olentangy School District, with its student newspaper, The Beacon. In February, the monthly news magazine ran an issue devoted to sex, including articles on sexually transmitted diseases and oral sex. Beacon Adviser Mardy Hanlon-Stolte wrote a letter of apology to parents for anyone who was offended, but said that the topics were appropriate for the students, Gordon said.

The topic of appropriateness was also discussed at the school board’s April 10 meeting at which some board members criticized some of the topics being covered, according to Gordon.

Gordon also said school officials at the April 12 meeting did not move to establish a binding prior review policy, but rather create a diverse committee to “provide support to journalism teachers so there’s not one sole judge and jury” prior to printing.

Each high school will have its own panel that will evaluate the content of its sister school’s newspaper. The panel will consist of the building principal, journalism teachers, a sophomore and senior journalism student and a professional reporter. The school board president and vice president are temporarily serving on the board as well “to make sure that the community [view] is included,” but students will not have to adhere to the suggestions of the panel, Gordon said.

Gordon said it was important for the journalism teachers to have a say in the decision “and that it’s not just something being done to them.” He anticipates another meeting in the future to develop a “long-term solution,” but said he is unsure what that will involve at this time.

By Erica Hudock, SPLC staff writer