Ohio high school paper's homosexuality coverage may lead to prior review

OHIO — Administratorsare considering prior review of a northern Ohio high school newspaper after it caused astir earlier this week by publishing an article exploring student views onhomosexuality.

The Tuesday edition of Northview High School’s The Student Prints newspaper featured anopinion spread titled, “A deeper look into homosexuality.” Within it were fivecolumns written by students expressing their opinions on homosexuality,accompanied by a poll on whether students would be comfortable with an openlygay best friend.

Opinions in the columns fell on different sides of theideological line.

“When I see two gay people, I tend to feel a littleuncomfortable,” one column read. “I do not hate the person by any means, but Ido not believe in being gay.”

Conversely, an anonymous junior wrote of the struggles ofbeing gay in high school.

“We don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘I am going tolike the same sex because it sounds fun.’ Why would anyone ever do that?”

The package has inflamed backlash from as many sides as itrepresented. The Toledo Blade reportedthat a steady stream of parents had called, expressing concern that the piecewould incite anti-gay bullying.

The page was not included in the online PDF version of thepaper, and the opinion section was removed Thursday from 150 papers that hadyet to be delivered, according to the Fox affiliate in Toledo.

In the ensuing days, adviser Sarah Huey and the newspaperstudents have been mum, and with reason. Huey said she and the students hadbeen asked by the school administration not to speak about the issue.

Several newspaper staff members did not respond to requests for comment.

Principal Steve Swaggerty, who told the Blade there would be “repercussions” for the article, deferredcomment on the situation to the superintendent’s office.

Nancy Crandell, spokeswoman for the Sylvania SchoolDistrict, said administrators were looking to add “safeguards” and “additionaloversight” to the publication process in the aftermath of the controversy.

“(It’s) not to keep controversial subjects from happeningbut just to have another pair of eyes look at it before it’s published,”Crandell said. “But in no way is that to keep subjects or people from being able to vocalize and share their opinions.”

The aforementioned repercussions center on returning to howthe publication process formerly worked — with the principal reviewing contentafter the adviser, Crandell said.

As for the students’ school-imposed silence, Crandellconfirmed it and said it was intended to “protect” students from thecontroversy.

“In any situation, the superintendent takes on thespokesperson’s role,” she said. “That’s just standard protocol at all times.”

Besides the apparent gag order on the students and adviser,which is “slam-dunk illegal,” the situation is still unclear, said SPLCExecutive Director Frank LoMonte.

“I’m still waiting for someone to identify what the mistakewas,” LoMonte said.

The healthiest response to a controversy is to hold a publicdiscussion, not restrict it, he said, adding that instituting mandatory priorreview is always “a huge step backward for journalism education.”

“If your goal is to have a controversy-free newspaper thatnever ruffles anyone’s feathers, then don’t call it a newspaper,” LoMonte said.

The district maintains that its response to the outcry is inno way intended to stifle student expression.

“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” Crandellsaid.