Sunday, April 01, 2007

Parents Protest H.S. Sex Newspaper

Some parents are protesting the "sex" edition of the student newspaper at Winnacunnet High School. Several said they were especially offended by a photograph of two women kissing under the headline, "Why men love women who love women," a quiz question about anal sex, and an interview with an unnamed custodian who said he had found a vibrator in the girls' shower.

"Those articles offended me personally as a parent," said Venus Merrill, a school board member. "It's not something you want to read with your 10-year-old and it's not something that should be going home."

Principal Randy Zito said the Winnachronicle had crossed the line of responsible reporting and that he had dealt with the problem privately. He also said he had pulled copies of the paper that normally would have been sent to middle schools in the cooperative school district.

The newspaper's faculty adviser defended the editors' decisions and said the February edition of the paper was intended to inform students, not shock people although they knew it would stir controversy.

"The kids wrote the articles and came up with the topic," said adviser Carol Downer. "They didn't go out to cause controversy, but the Winnachronicle is also not a P.R. piece for the high school. This is a place for students to express their view and talk about issues that are troubling the student body."

The newspaper is not reviewed in advance of publication by administrators. The school board has not discussed the controversy in a public meeting, but parent Paula Wood, of Seabrook, said she wants it on the agenda for the next one.

Zito told her it would have to be discussed in a closed session because it might involve personnel issues, but Wood said she asked the superintendent to hold a public meeting.

"I don't want to discuss personnel," Wood said. "I want to discuss the paper. "I thought it was a vile, disgusting piece of pornography I wouldn't want to be in front of children, let alone paid for by taxpayers."

Wood said she and her children, two boys, discuss sex openly, "but not in a disgusting manner."

The student paper's editor in chief, Katie McCay, and managing editor, Lisa McManus, said they wanted to educate students, nearly half of whom are already having sexual intercourse, according to a 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey at the high school. The true or false quiz was particularly enlightening, they said.

"As we put the pages on the table, the staff said, 'Oh my goodness, that's false? I had no idea,'" McCay said. "This is definitely stuff kids didn't know about."

They also got a lot of feedback about the article on lesbians, she said.

"We thought it was an important topic to address," McCay said. "Being in a high school, it's something I've seen and something other kids have seen in the hallways."

In an editorial, McManus wrote that the students were aware they were dealing with a taboo.

"These stories have been edited and re-edited for content and delivery, keeping in mind that the job here is to inform, not shock," the editorial said. "It's about sex. Deal with it. …

"It is something parents hope their children remain ignorant about until after marriage. It is something faculty members and administrators hope not to deal with, but something that almost all students have experienced or been exposed to."

Information from: Portsmouth Herald,

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