OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — A censored version of an Oak Ridge High School newspaper will be printed after administrators confiscated an earlier edition that they considered offensive, Superintendent Tom Bailey said yesterday.
Administrators at Oak Ridge High School went into teachers' classrooms, desks and mailboxes a week ago to retrieve all 1,800 copies of the student-produced newspaper. An article about birth control and another on student tattoos and body piercings were cited by administrators as the reason for the seizures.
Bailey said in a statement yesterday that the edition would be reprinted today without the birth-control story and with an edited tattoo story.
The recall of the newspapers sparked debate inside and outside the school and sparked student protests at a Nov. 28 board of education meeting.
"The administration appreciates the sincere interests of the students in challenging the action of the system," Bailey said in the statement. "However, considering the legal latitude granted to school officials and the concerns of the administration with the graphic nature of the articles and the varying ages of the student population, the school system believes that the appropriate response has been made."
David Stuart, a lawyer for the student journalists, said he did not know what they would do, but that they could file a lawsuit in state or federal court seeking an opinion on whether the seizure violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. If the court ruled in their favor, they could win an injunction against future seizures.
"The administration made it clear they were willing to talk to the students, but that they were going to have the final say on the matter," Stuart said.
The Oak Leaf's birth-control article listed success rates for different methods and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department. Bailey said the article needed to be edited so it would be acceptable for the entire school.
At the school board meeting, parent Jackie Moreno said parents should give their children information about sex.
"It's my responsibility to educate my children about sex and birth control," Moreno said.
The story's author, Krystal Meyers, defended her work.
"A lot of kids don't know that is their right" to obtain birth control without parental permission, Meyers said. "That was me letting them know what their rights are."
"That article talks about subverting parental authority," parent Joseph Oswald said.