Principal recalls student newspaper, cites 'inappropriate' images

By The Associated Press
02.10.06

GIG HARBOR, Wash. — A high school principal ordered all copies of a student newspaper recalled because of material she deemed inappropriate, including a photo of a student with his fly unzipped and an illustration of a tampon.

Peninsula High School Principal Patricia Scott said she had no problem with the subject matter of The Peninsula Outlook's special edition last week, which was devoted to embarrassing moments.

But she said the illustrations crossed the line.

"They're students, and they're learning what's appropriate and not appropriate," Scott told The News Tribune newspaper in nearby Tacoma.

Scott said she met with the Outlook staff, reminding the students that they need to consult with her in advance about material that could be deemed questionable.

The students have done a good job of keeping her apprised in the past, she said, but in this case they didn't alert her because they didn't think the material would raise any eyebrows.

The newspaper's adviser and its student managing editor did not respond to requests for comment from The News Tribune. A message left by the Associated Press was not returned for this article.

It's not the first time administrators have second-guessed student journalists in the Peninsula School District.

Three years ago, Gig Harbor High School Principal Mike West vetoed a student newspaper story about a rape that allegedly occurred on campus, citing the potential impact on one of the students involved.

Mark Goodman, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center, which assists high school and college journalists, said "there's still a lot of gray area" in the law regarding when school officials can legally censor student publications.

Generally, censorship is more questionable if the school has a history of allowing students to make independent editorial decisions, he said. Goodman said his group gets several hundred calls a year from student journalists and advisers.

In December, two student editors at Everett High School sued the school district, claiming it had violated their free-speech rights by requiring them to submit the newspaper for review before distribution. That case is pending in U.S. District Court in Seattle.