Ill. school district revises prior review policy after 'hooking up' issue of student newspaper

ILLINOIS — The student newspaper at Stevenson High School inLincolnshire, Ill. will have more oversight by school officials after articlesabout students’ dating habits in last month’s issue sparked controversy in theschool community.

Communication Arts Program Director David Noskin will review each issuebefore it goes to print, which according to Noskin, is making his role “moreformal.” Beginning this month, Noskin will give the final approval after BarbaraThill, the newspaper adviser, approves the content.

Jim Conrey, director of public information at Stevenson High School, saidthe school is “simply putting into place what is common practice around thecountry, which is having more than one pair of eyes take a look at the storybefore it goes to print.”

The Jan. 30 issue of the Statesman, the student newspaper, featureda series of articles and sidebars about “hooking up” and what the dating sceneis like for teens today. The articles included student, teacher andprofessional perspectives on issues like the psychology behind “hooking up,”relationships beyond high school life, and the popularity of “hooking up” in theteenage community.

Conrey said the concerns with the Statesman go back to last schoolyear and that the new oversight policy was not created because of the Jan. 30issue.

“It’s something that has been under consideration for some time, and Iguess you would say that the January 30 issue made it clear that we need to takethis step,” Conrey said.

Noskin said the Jan 30 issue “created a concern amongst various people inthe community” in terms of how the information was reported, not the content ofthe articles.

“It was not the content,” Noskin said. “It was the fact that it justcreated a lot of stir. Some people welcomed the conversation, other people feltit went over the line but still liked the conversation. Other people saw it asnot appropriate for younger readers … other people saw it as sort of notproviding any kind of balance.”

Noskin, Conrey and Superintendent Eric Twadell do not believe this iscensorship.

“The question is not what they are writing about, but how they arewriting,” Twadell said.

Past issues of the Statesman have covered topics like oral sex,suicide and drug use, and according to Conrey, the new policy will not prohibitthe newspaper “from covering sensitive issues.”

“It’s nothing about the subject matter,” Conrey said. “It’s all about basicjournalistic practices.”

Noskin is hopeful the new prior review policy “will encourage morediscussion about how you deal with these issues and more of a conversation aboutaudience.”

Conrey believes this new policy will be a “topic of conversation” at theMarch 16 school board meeting.

Staff members of the Statesman refused to comment on theissue.