High School Paper's Sex and Relationships Article Stirs Up Controversy

Mountain View-Los Altos Union School District tackles adult issues of sex and drugs and student reporters

By Kris Sanchez
|  Tuesday, Mar 12, 2013  |  Updated 8:58 AM PDT
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Sex and the student newspaper. The combination is stirring controversy at a Peninsula high school. Parents  concerns have more to do with the accuracy of the content, than the content itself. Kris Sanchez reports.

Sex and the student newspaper. The combination is stirring controversy at a Peninsula high school. Parents concerns have more to do with the accuracy of the content, than the content itself. Kris Sanchez reports.

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Sex and Relationships made the centerfold of “The Oracle,” the Mountain View High School newspaper. The student journalists produced articles on the difference between lust and love, and even an article on sexual health entitled, “What They Teach You In Health, and What You Need To Know.”

“We hear about drugs, sex, money. There’s no way to avoid it, so what ‘The Oracle’ does is to try to take conversations kids are already having and trying to put it in the most unbiased way possible,” MVHS senior Claire Johnson said, who is also “The Oracle” photo editor. “It was really about making sure kids can understand how to make good decisions.”

But some parents in the community west of San Jose are none too happy with the candid and frank discussion. Not because of the sex, but because of the incomplete information presented, they say.

“One of the articles talked about, ‘you just need to get yourself tested’ and then you can just use oral contraception. There’s this idea being promoted that oral contraception protects against sexually transmitted diseases, and that’s completely ridiculous,” Sarah Robinson said, who is a parent of a MVHS sophomore, and also a physician.

An earlier edition of “The Oracle” discussed drug use. One article referenced the fact that some parents allow their teens to experiment with marijuana in the home where they are safe. The Mountain View High School parents contend that the article makes no mention of the fact that providing marijuana to a child is illegal.

“I just think some of the things haven’t been professional. And they’re students, we get that,” parent and former journalist Christy Reed said, adding “It’s just realizing that editing from an adult doesn’t have to be censorship. It can be helpful, it can be part of the writing process.”

The parents would like to see more adult supervision for “The Oracle” staff, for the district to adopt a journalism code of ethics and perhaps even for the student journalists’ grades to be tied to what they write for the newspaper.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the Mountain View High School principal and the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District for comment. Our requests were not answered.

Student journalist Claire Johnson says she will listen to the discussion at the district board meeting with an open mind.

“When we hear these parents talk, it really hits us, it really impacts us and we understand it,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, we don’t want to completely sacrifice what we’re getting at, and that is talking about things that are important to teenagers.”

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