School censors editorial that mentions sexually explicit Top 25 List

PENNSYLVANIA -- Administrators at a Pittsburgh high school stopped the student newspaper there from publishing an editorial Monday about the local media coverage surrounding a sexually explicit ''Top 25 List'' that was recently circulated among students.

The editorial would have appeared in the monthly issue of The Devil's Advocate at Mt. Lebanon High School. But school officials banned the piece because it mentioned the list. The list contained sexually graphic descriptions of female students at the school along with their pictures. The list, which surfaced this spring, also graded the female students based on their breasts, buttocks and faces.

No one on the staff of the student newspaper was involved in creating the original list and the editorial did not include any of the descriptions or student images.

The school has suspended one student for his part in creating the list, and a parent has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the Mt. Lebanon School District, according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Naomi Blaushild, former editor in chief and a current section editor for The Devil's Advocate, said that although the editorial made basic references to the ''Top 25 List,'' the piece was primarily meant to be a criticism of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's extensive news coverage of the list.

''They printed the story on the front page three times, so as journalists we thought that was kind of ridiculous,'' Blaushild said. ''Basically our editorial criticized that. We didn't express an opinion on the list itself. We mentioned it obviously, but we talked more about how the

Post Gazette's coverage of the list was inappropriate.''

Current editor in chief Jenny Schmidt said the purpose of the editorial was not to further sensationalize the issue.

''We as a newspaper as a whole felt we weren't drawing attention to the 'Top 25 List' as much as we were defending them [the students listed] and saying this shouldn't have happened to them,'' Schmidt said.

Ben Howard, opinions editor of the student newspaper, said administrators objected to any mention of the list in the newspaper because they thought it would further upset the students specifically named on the list.

''It was censored because it mentioned the 'Top 25 List,' just because we had those words in the editorial,'' Howard said. ''And we really thought that this was unreasonable and probably inappropriate considering the laws.''

Howard said the newspaper staff is not interested in taking legal action against the school in order to publish the editorial. Instead, they printed a new piece titled ''Editorial censored by administration,'' which school officials allowed the paper to publish. This editorial referenced the Pennsylvania Administrative Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which states

''students have the right to express themselves unless such expression materially and substantially interferes with the educational process, threatens immediate harm to the welfare of the school or community, encourages unlawful activity, or interferes with another individual's rights.''

Cissy Bowman, director of communications at Mt. Lebanon, declined to comment outside of a written statement released by the school Tuesday. According to the statement, the editorial was pulled because school officials ''determined that any articles concerning this matter [the 'Top 25 List'] would interfere with the rights'' of the students named on the list.

Mt. Lebanon High School, news, Pennsylvania, The Devil's Advocate