HSJ Headline News
Oakville High School newspaper staff seeks policy revision
Oakville-Mehlville Journal News
January 3, 2005
Staff members of the Oakville High School newspaper, The Prowl, are seeking a policy revision after two advertisements were pulled from a basketball program by the administration.
The Prowl staff wrote a letter to School Board President Cindy Christopher dated Dec. 10. The letter stated that during the production of the Oakville Senior High School basketball program, The Prowl staff was informed of a school district policy stating that no school publication can place any political, philosophical or religious advertisement.
According the letter, The Prowl staff "reluctantly complied," when they were told to pull the two advertisements.
One of the removed advertisements was for Amendment XIV to the U.S. Constitution.
The individual who bought the ad identified themselves at the bottom of the ad as an Oakville resident for universal human dignity.
Amendment XIV is often referred to as a Reconstruction Amendment because it was drafted following the Civil War. It was intended to abolish slavery and to extend civil rights to former slaves.
Part of the amendment is quoted in the advertisement: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States - or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law." Below the quote the sentence "think about it" is written.
The second removed advertisement was for Twin Rivers Worship Center. A quote on the advertisement said, "a healing ministry to a wounded world." Other information on the advertisement includes a web site address, a telephone number and a street address.
The advertisements were removed under a Mehlville School District's policy.
Select parts of the policy state that any advertising is subject to approval by the superintendent or his/her designee and that school publications will not accept advertising relating to any political, religious or philosophical organization, belief, position or subject matter.
The Prowl's Dec.10 letter to the board also said, "there is ample legal precedent that advertising and content enjoy equal protection from censorship. As a self-supported publication, The Prowl has the right to accept any advertisement at the staff's discretion."
Ian Darnell, a spokesman for The Prowl, addressed the Board of Education at its meeting Dec. 15.
As the spokesman, Darnell told the board that after the advertisements were removed, The Prowl contacted the Student Press Law Center and were informed that the district policy is unconstitutional.
The Prowl staff cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Rosenberger v. Rectors, saying that according to that ruling, public school administrations cannot restrict the publication of ideological material.
Rosenberger v. Rectors was a case in which Ronald Rosenberger, a University of Virginia student, asked the university for funds to finance the publishing of a Christian publication. The university refused to provide the funds, but the Supreme Court ruled that the university's denial of funding was viewpoint discrimination and that "the exclusion of several views is as offensive to free speech as the exclusion of only one."
At the end of his presentation, spokesman Darnell asked the board to overturn the policy because The Prowl staff believes it's unconstitutional. In addition, he said the board should consider running the two removed advertisements.
Board member Matthew Chellis praised Darnell for his presentation, but asked that The Prowl staff define clearly in writing what specific changes they would like to see made to the policy.
Christopher explained that the board will take the requests under advisement and that she will ask Superintendent Tim Ricker to forward the matter to its legal counsel.
Copyright 2005, Oakville-Mehlville Journal News. Reprinted with permission