High School Newspaper Article Sets off Free Speech Discussion: A high school senior has found herself at the center of a debate on free speech in schools after publishing a piece on rape culture.
It began when Tanvi Kumar, a senior at Wisconin’s Fond du Lac High School, published a piece titled “The Rape Joke” in a student-run magazine. According to the Fond du Lac paper The Reporter, Kumar’s article “documents a prevailing rape culture within the school and its impact on students who are survivors of sexual abuse.” (All of the students quoted were given aliases.)
In reaction to the piece, Fond du Lac’s principal Jon Wiltzius announced that all future newspaper articles would have to be approved by the administration and could be rejected if they did not meet official standards. “This is a reasonable expectation,” Wiltzius told the Press-Gazette. “My job is to oversee the global impact of everything that occurs within our school and I have to ensure I am representing everyone and there was some questionable content.”
The school’s student journalists promptly launched a petition to stop the censorship of the paper and the school’s English teachers have asked district administrators to drop the censorship policy, releasing a 22-page statement in support of the students’ right to free speech.
For its part, the Fond du Lac community has for the most part been rallying around Kumar and the rest of the student newspaper staff. As one alum wrote in this letter to the editor, “When a courageous student like Ms. Tanvi Kumar publishes an article seeking to expose a culture of sexual abuse and violence among fellow students and friends at Fond du Lac High School (FHS), such a student deserves the highest praise.”
Kumar told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that she was inspired to write the piece after hearing rape jokes while walking through the hallways of her school. “I was appalled by that, and it upset me to the point that I felt like I had to say something or do something about it,” Kumar told the paper.
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Lakshmi Gandhi is an editor at The Aerogram. Follow her on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.