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Administrative censorship restricts students’ voices

Jonathan Lesniak , Opinion Writer
April 8, 2014
Filed under Opinion

Student journalist Tanvi Kumar of Fond du Lac High School recently published an article titled “The Rape Joke” for her school’s publication Cardinal Columns. This in turn touched off the age-old debate of censorship and students’ freedom of speech.

The Cardinal Columns is a student magazine formed through a journalism class at the high school. Kumar’s article discussed the stories of three sexual assault victims from within the school and referred to the lasting effects of the violence as “rape culture,” according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Andrew Phillips.

Superintendent James Sebert viewed the article as inappropriate and offensive and issued a school board policy subjecting student publications to “school guidelines as determined by the principal,” according to Phillips.

The principal, Jon Wiltzius, was given the authority to refuse to publish student work deemed to interfere with the educational process and/or other student’s rights or aligns the school with a controversial political position, Phillips said.

Unfortunately, what this ordinance is doing is taking away the students’ rights of freedom of speech.

By electing to not publish articles that are controversial or show different perspectives, students don’t have the option to vocalize their ideas, concepts and beliefs. This in turn censors their thoughts and any open mindedness that allows them a broader perspective on human life.

Although this ordinance does not tell the students directly that they cannot write about controversial topics, it denotes them to write about more ethically safe subjects in hopes to have their work published.

Besides this matter, the school isn’t doing anything different from what other magazines and publishing companies do by selecting which articles are most appropriate for their works and most suitable for their audiences.

In most cases, the article is submitted and the editor and publisher have the power to finalize the publishing of the work.

This however, doesn’t mean the school should turn away and discourage their students from writing about topics that are heavy hitting and sometimes a sore subject.