When the upper school deans censored three student-made public service announcements made for a photography class, they violated the studentsâ right to freedom of speech, the most important right guaranteed to all citizens of the United States.
In doing so, they also contradicted their usual endorsement of individuality and maturity in students.
Granted, the posters dealt with provocative topics â sex, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol â but none of the content displayed on these posters falls under the umbrella of what can be censored, according to Supreme Court decisions. These posters are not obscene, offensive, threats to national security or likely to incite a riot.Â Â
Moreover, California law says that students at public schools are afforded the same free speech rights as any citizen. The laws for private schools are not as clear. The private school cannot punish students but they can censor.
They can censor but should not. The deans at our school should grant the same rights to our intelligent, mature student body that public schools grant to their students.
All of these topics are regularly discussed in Choices and Challenges and Human Development classes. These classes frankly discuss the importance of safe sex and the dangers of drinking.
If teachers and Peer Support leaders can express opinions on the topics, other students should be given the respect to do so, especially when they are delivering the right message. The right to speech is not and should not be expanded or constricted for any individual.
The school censored the posters not because they endorsed underage sex or drinking but because they did not absolutely condemn them. The availability of condoms across campus indicates the schoolâs promotion of safe sex as well as abstinence.
All of the public service announcements were made as an art class assignment and approved by photo teacher Kevin OâMalley. If it was made clear that the posters were displays of artistic expression then it would be clear that the school was not necessarily endorsing the messages.
What is okay for the class should be okay for the rest of the student body to see, especially a student body as mature as Harvard-Westlake claims its own to be.
If the deans continue to wield the power of censorship, any form of student expression could be at risk, be it a creative writing piece or an article in this very newspaper.