Principal censors 'choking game' article

Student journalist says students need to hear about dangers from peer

PENNSYLVANIA -- A high school journalist who wanted to inform other teens about the dangers of playing the “choking game” was told by administrators last month that running the article might be too dangerous.

Danielle Hibler, a student at Canon-McMillan High School in Canon, Penn., wrote an article called “A dangerous game exposed” which detailed the death of a 15-year-old girl from Kansas who died while cutting off her air supply as a means of getting high.

Before each issue, the C-M Times faculty adviser gives the articles to an administrator for review. The proof pages came back with a big “X” through the choking game story, Hibler said.

The night the article was censored, Hibler went home to see a TV news report about the death of a 13-year-old boy in a nearby district who was thought to have died from engaging in intentional choking.

While it is hard to gauge how many kids have participated in the choking game, Hibler said while researching her article, several classmates told her they had made themselves or others pass out for fun.

Principal Linda Nichols said the article was not suitable to print because it might spur more people to copy the game. Nichols also cited other reasons for the censorship saying the article was medically inaccurate and that parents -- not a student newspaper -- should discuss the choking game with kids.

After talking with several administrators, Hibler was frustrated that her article would not be published and contacted the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which ran the article on March 12 along with a story about Hibler’s fight to get her story printed.

Hibler said the first week of her journalism class focused on First Amendment rights and adviser Susan Humbertson told students if they felt those rights were being violated, they should fight for them. Humbertson said she “was advised not to make any comments” about the article to the media.

Hibler is planning on putting up a fight to make sure students read her story. She said she is considering printing the article herself and passing it out at school so her classmates can be aware of the danger of playing the game.

Students need to hear about the dangers of oxygen deprivation as a game from a peer, Hibler said.

“With the choking game, kids teach other kids the game,” Hibler said. “If your parent is telling you not to do it, you don’t want to listen to them as much as if a peer is telling you it’s dangerous.”

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, since Hibler’s article was censored she has gained national attention. Her story has been featured in various newspapers; she was a guest on a local radio show which drew in tons of calls and e-mails; she was invited to speak on press freedom at St. Bonaventure University and has been contacted by a faculty member in the University of Arizona journalism department to try and get her to enroll as a student.

C-M Times, Canon-McMillan High School, news, Pennsylvania