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

OHIO — Administrators are considering prior review of a northern Ohio high school newspaper after it caused a stir earlier this week by publishing an article exploring student views on homosexuality.

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

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

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

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

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

The package has inflamed backlash from as many sides as it represented. The Toledo Blade reported that a steady stream of parents had called, expressing concern that the piece would incite anti-gay bullying.

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

In the ensuing days, adviser Sarah Huey and the newspaper students have been mum, and with reason. Huey said she and the students had been 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, deferred comment on the situation to the superintendent’s office.

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

“(It’s) not to keep controversial subjects from happening but 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 how the publication process formerly worked — with the principal reviewing content after the adviser, Crandell said.

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

“In any situation, the superintendent takes on the spokesperson’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 SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte.

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

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

“If your goal is to have a controversy-free newspaper that never ruffles anyone’s feathers, then don’t call it a newspaper,” LoMonte said.

The district maintains that its response to the outcry is in no way intended to stifle student expression.

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

news, Northview High School, Ohio, The Student Prints

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