Mountain View High School Controversy Stirred Over Sex and Relationships on School Paper

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

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    NEWSLETTERS

    At a rousing school board meeting on Monday night, parents and students came out in force to discuss journalistic ethics at the Mountain View High School paper, where articles have been published on lust and love, and other sexual topics. No action was taken. George Kiriyama reports.

    At a rousing school board meeting on Monday night, parents and students came out in force to discuss journalistic ethics at the Mountain View High School paper, where articles have been published on lust and love, and other sexual topics.

    Critics were there to say that they didn't want to ban "The Oracle," but that they wanted a higher standard of journalism before an article could run. About 40 people came out to the meeting, the vast majority in support of the paper. The school board took no action.

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

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

    At the heart of the debate was a recent issue called "Sex and Relationships," which  made the centerfold of  The Oracle.

    At the meeting, Tom Ingersoll said it's not that teens shouldn't discuss sex and relationships, but for him, the matter is about taste. " A lot of the terminology that was used, and the approach that was used...was just not appropriate."

    He also added that the advisers in the program "are not setting the appropriate standard for the children to work to."
     
    But some parents in the community west of San Jose are none too happy with the candid and frank discussion because of the incomplete information presented in some of the articles.

    “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 before the meeting. She is a parent and also a physician.

    An earlier edition of the newspaper 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 before the meeting. She added: “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 editor-in-chief of the newspaper attended Monday night's meeting. And for Michelle Rubinstein, the controversy brought up a lot of interesting real-life journalistic quandaries.

    "We don't mean to cross lines or community standards, but our goal is to really provoke thought and discussion and I think that's what's been happening," she said. "We are very open to hearing other people's opinions and we're not trying to shut down other opinions."

    She added that the debate is likely to change the way the reporters and editors for The Oracle put together the next issue.
     
    "I think as student journalists we always have room for improvement," she said."I'm very proud of how this cycle turned out."

    “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.”