Saturday, March 6, 2010

Analysis of THS publication regulations

The recent censorship and abuse activites of the Wentzville School District against the parents and students of Timberland High School are covered under the school district regulation 2910, which covers student publications.  The current link to the document is
(in case they edit it, I have a copy)

There are quite a few illegalities with how the Principal Winston Rogers, Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio and Superintendant Terry Adams have been handling things.  Here is a breakdown...

1)  First, the parent that has been denied access to the upcoming censorship meetings was denied based on the following section...
3. Faculty Advisor Level
Material found unobjectionable by the Editorial Board but questioned by the
faculty advisor shall be discussed by both parties. If the difference cannot be
resolved, the material shall be presented to the building principal for review
and guidance.

Material still found unobjectionable by the Editorial Board but questioned by
the faculty advisor and/or building principal shall be presented at a joint
meeting of the Editorial Board and the advisor. The faculty advisor must give
specific reasons for his/her objections and give guidance to the group. The
student writer shall be afforded an opportunity to present his/her viewpoint. If
the Editorial board by a two-thirds vote still finds the material unobjectionable
it may be printed. A quorum will be considered present when two-thirds of
the Editorial Board attend a meeting, and two-thirds of those present must
Assistant Superintendant Melody Marcantonio, and her legal council, are apparently adding the word "only", which would make it read "... shall be presented at a joint meeting of only the Editorial Board and the advisor."  Since it doesn't say "only", then legally a parent of a student can participate.  Given this interpretation, even Melody Marcantonio can't attend.  So Rogers, Marcantonio and Adams.... swish and a miss!!
2) Second, the censorship activites of THS Principal Winston Rogers have a very disciplined procedure, which is clearly outlined in the policy.  The steps are summarized from the policy as follows...
  1. If something is found objectionable by Principal Rogers, then he must arrange a meeting with the Editorial Board (which is composed of students), the advisor (Cathy McCandless) and Principal Winston Rogers to discuss.
  2. If 2/3 of the Editorial Board still agrees that it should be printed, it will be.
  3. A statement of the meeting must be recorded, signed by all participating parties, and a copy sent to the Board and Superintendant Terry Adams.
  4. As a final measure, if Principal Winston Rogers finds that something that can "be reasonably forecast to cause substantial and material disruption or obstruction of any lawful mission. process or function of the school", he can stop or delay the publication.  However, Winston Rogers must then forward the objectionable material to Superintendant Terry Adams, along with a statement explaining his reasoning.
  5. If Principal Rogers does exercise this final authoritiy, then it is Superintendant Terry Adams' responsibility to call a meeting of "all parties immediately to determine if the delay or stoppage was warranted."
In all cases of the censorship of the Timberland High School newspaper and yearbook, there has been no meeting between anyone on any of the events.  This is in violation of their own policy, which in a court of law, would render their legal defense of a parent particpating in any of the meetings moot.  Additionally, since no documentation exists, they find themselves in a very actionable position.  So Rogers, Marcantonio and Adams.... nice try, but "STRIKE TWO"!!

3)  All of the censored materials do not qualify for censorship according to the school policy.  The section of the policy in question states...
The building principal/designee, may delay or stop distribution of any

materials proposed for printing or that have been printed which may be
reasonably forecast to cause substantial and material disruption or
obstruction of any lawful mission. process or function of the school.
The first attack of censorship was against a well-balanced article on the trend of students getting tattoos.  So lets analyze.....
Substantial or material disruption: The article discussed the reasons that kids get tattoos at Timberland High School.  It also contained a substantial amount of information about why not to get tattoo'd.  The "reasonable" impact of this article would have been an educated teen concerning the issues around tattoos.  The "unreasonable" impact would have been a tattoo parlor being set up in the lunch room to service the mass numbers that were influenced by the article.
Substantial or material obstruction: The article contained information on how underage teens get tattoos, and why they should spend considerable time contemplating such a decision.  The "reasonable" obstruction doesn't exist.  However, the "unreasonable" obstruction would be all the time students would have been away from class getting their bodies tattoo'd.  But, since Principal Winston Rogers stated that "they can't get tattoos until they're 18", then even this unreasonable obstruction becomes impossible.

The second attack of censorship was the pulling of a newspaper from the racks that contained a picture of a breast cancer memorial tattoo.
Substantial or material disruption: There is no "reasonable" expectation that this picture would have caused any issues.  However, since this was possibly an attempt by the editorial staff at "freedom of speech", Principal Rogers obviously felt this was a serious disruption to his authority.
Substantial or material obstruction: The photo could not have possibly interfered with any mission of the school, unless that mission was to censor anything that Principal Rogers or the Wentzville School District administration finds "different".

The third attack, which is underway as this is being written, is an attempt to censor student portraits from the Timberland High School Yearbook for "too much skin"
Substantial or material disruption: Seriously???  Does the Wentzville School District administration think that excessivly hormonal boys are going to run wild in the halls if some pictures of their female peers show them with bare shoulders?  If so, I can see where they would think all the commotion could interfere with education, since all the male students will be preoccupied with staring at yearbook portraits.
Substantial or material obstruction: Obstruction of what?  The only obstruction is that happening to the parents that purchased yearbooks, and reasonably expect to see their child.  If the portraits included in the yearbook are that close to pornography, then why does the school allow these pictures in the first place... or at least provide potato sacks for the girls to wear.

So... strike three Mr Rogers, Ms. Marcantonio and Mr. Adams.

1 comment:

  1. it wasnt a breast cancer tattoo. it is a gray awareness ribbon with my best friends name in it. he passed away in april 2009 from brain cancer.. we went through chemo and everything together. so there ya go.. the whole school knew adam so it makes it even more ridiculous.