A Tale of Two Newspapers

While I'm fully aware that our society is chock full of double standards, every now and then a particularly egregious example arises that nonetheless takes me by surprise. Compare the following school-newspaper controversies:

Settlement allows besieged Ind. educator to continue teaching


Jury: District not responsible for statements in student newspaper

In the case described by the first link, a student wrote an editorial encouraging tolerance of homosexuality. The school felt that this was so inappropriate that they began requiring articles to be reviewed by the school principal (presumably, so the principal would have an opportunity to censor such content). The faculty advisor who had allowed the student's editorial to appear was disciplined, threatened with termination, and eventually moved to another school and prevented from teaching journalism.

In the case described in the second link, a student newspaper at a different school published callous remarks about the 'bad reputation' of a girl who had been raped, including jokes about rape and bestiality, as well as implying that the girl had lied about the rape. The girl sued, and now (five years later) a jury returned a verdict that the school district was not responsible for the tasteless statements. Counsel for the district alleged that the adviser at the suburban Indianapolis school made a mistake when she didn't find the statements in a final edit, but that was not enough to prove recklessness.

So what do I take away from this comparison? One case involved a teacher disciplined by the school district for allowing a student to voice her own opinion in the paper. The other case involved a different school district washing its hands of all responsibility with regard to the content of its paper by saying Accidents Happen. Too bad, so sad, rape victim! Your public humiliation was a mistake, but don't expect anyone to be held accountable.

How *warped* are our priorities in this society that voicing tolerance for gays earns a career-altering smackdown, while allowing the public ridicule of a young woman and trashing the reputation of an already-traumatized victim result in nothing but hand-wringing?

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