How much editorial control should a high school yearbook editor wield? Most will probably never know the scope of their influence, considering that senior photos and candid snapshots of the soccer team are considered pretty G-rated material.
But what happens when the material is more racy, and the subjects of some photos are actually offended at how they’ll be seen in perpetuity to their schoolmates?
Cheerleaders at River City High School in West Sacramento, Calif., are upset at an article about them in this year’s yearbook. Titled, “Who Wears Short Shorts,” they’re described as showing “more leg than Daisy Duke” and as being “dolled up in micromini [sic] uniforms” while “strolling down halls” with “blatant disregard” for the school’s dress code. One picture accompanying the article shows the cheer squad with their skirts up high while in action mode, while another shows just a digitally altered photos of some of the girls’ legs.
The cheerleaders are upset and angry at their depiction, particularly since they say they didn’t even choose the uniforms they’re ridiculed for wearing. Their parents are equally upset that the school would allow such an article to be printed.
Staff at the school gave parents copies of the education code, which shows that state law allows for the language. A Supreme Court ruling in the late ‘80s ruled that educators aren’t allowed to exercise editorial control over the “style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”
Since the article didn’t constitute libel, school officials can only encourage the editor to “make the right decision”.
The 16-year-old who wrote the article released a statement:
“I deeply regret submitting this page to my adviser, as well as letting it be published. I made an editorial mistake and I apologize for any pain that I may have caused. I did not mean for this spread to be malicious or maleconent [sic] in any way. This page was not an attack on the cheerleaders; it was not out of spite. While I did try out for the team in 2009, I carry no resentment towards the cheerleaders or their families. We [the yearbook staff] are currently taking steps to make amends. Again, I apologize for any hurt that I may have caused.”
Out of the 1,000 yearbooks printed, school officials are holding onto the 600 that have not yet been distributed until the article is revised.
It sounds to me like the problem is that there was not a solid faculty adviser in place who would have prevented the article from being published in the first place. The article’s author, or the yearbook’s editor, clearly didn’t have the maturity to know that it was an inappropriate article to print. I feel bad for the cheerleaders and think they have every right to be upset.
This isn’t a First Amendment issue; this is an issue of maturity.
Do you think the right course of action is being taken?
Image + Source: ABC News 10
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