Paper censored due to homosexuality policy
NEW HAMPSHIRE — Censorship at Merrimack High School has sparked a legal battle that could set a precedent regarding discussing homosexuality in schools.
Principal Timothy Mayes censored two letters to Currents, the student newspaper, saying they violate the district’s policy restricting the positive discussion of homosexuality.
The censorship sparked attention concerning the policy and prompted several members of the Merrimack community, including students and the Merrimack Teachers Association, to file a lawsuit.
The policy, titled the “Prohibition of Alternative Lifestyle Instruction,” or policy 6540, prohibits any program or activity, including instruction and counseling, which has the “purpose or effect” of “encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative.” It does not prohibit or restrict programs or activities that communicate a negative expression of opinion pertaining to homosexuality.
The lawsuit was filed because “the policy has directly and substantially curtailed the plaintiffs’ freedom of expression,” said the court complaint. The lawsuit also states, “This policy … is constitutionally vague, violating the strict standards of clarity required by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the free speech protections of the First Amendment.”
The letters to the newspaper criticized the policy, which prompted the principal to censor them. Ironically, at the beginning of the school year, the paper reported on the policy and quoted school board members and two anonymous students arguing for and against the policy.
The principal said the article was acceptable because it was balanced, but the current letters had the potential to violate the policy.
reports, Spring 1996