Banned Book Week prompts review of overall censorship in school

Kelly Cordingley, Sally Cochran, Editor In Chief, Staff Writer

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Art censorship varies based on subject, school rules
Art teacher Michael Johnston said, occasionally, censorship affects student-produced art in art classes.
“We obviously have to be careful about certain topics,” he said.
Johnston said he runs into the issue of censorship more often in photography classes than other classes because of the realism depicted in a photograph.
“One issue in photo a lot is what constitutes nude,” he said. “We have to talk about identification of students because we are dealing with minors and students who go here.”
He said that students are not allowed to show drug or alcohol usage in their art.
“Anything that relates to alcohol, drugs or tobacco is not allowed except for a bottle or something like that to imply alcohol or tobacco.”
Art teacher Mark Mosier said he will limit what subjects students can address through the school art programs but will not discourage pursuing it elsewhere.
“I’m not going to get into telling students moral standards,” he said. “I would suggest that would be a family-parent issue. I’m not going to say don’t do it. I will say the school can’t.”
Johnston said on the rare occasion he has to censor a student’s work, it is usually because of excessive graphic violence.
“That probably gets censored more than anything — graphically violent images,” he said. “I’ve had a few students do that, usually around Halloween.”
Johnston said material is censored due to the law.
“Mostly we avoid [censored material] because of legal issues, not because of being conservative in views,” he said.
Mosier said the school could be held responsible for negligence in certain cases.
“If I saw someone doing something dangerous [in a work of art], and if I didn’t notify a parent, a case could be made that the school was negligent,” he said. “Health-wise, safety-wise and behavior-wise, you have to consider the welfare of the student.”
Johnston said he has not censored a student’s work in many years. He has only had to do so a few times since he has been at Blue Valley.
“I have told students to pick less offensive images, and they’re usually OK with that,” he said.
Johnston said he tries to remain open to students ideas.
“Students will give me ideas, and I’ll tell them if it crosses the line,” he said.
Mosier said we have responsibility as a school.
“We are a public institution with responsibility to the district,” he said. “We are not independent, and we can’t just do whatever.”
Theatre director Jeff Yarnell said he will cut out language or sexually explicit parts of a play.
“There’s language we won’t use, like the F-word,” Yarnell said. “[I cut out] anything overly sexual I don’t feel like my 16-year-old students need to be performing.”
Yarnell said in his Media and Pop culture class he chooses to censor certain R-rated movies that could be beneficial. He said he does so because of his religious beliefs, not school regulations.
“I think my conservative viewpoint is part of the reason,” he said. “It’s important to protect kids and keep them from growing up too fast.”

Student tests boundaries of school dress code
Vice Principal Mark Dalton said he isn’t sure if it would be called censorship, but there are rules regarding what may and may not be worn at school.
“What you look at are things that promote drug and alcohol abuse, that are profane or that promote promiscuity,” he said. “You can’t wear them in school, and the school has a right to request that students not wear a shirt that would promote any of those things.”
Senior Grayson Yockey had to change his shirt, which was decided to be inappropriate by administration.
“The shirt features a picture of a bear with deer antlers and says ‘beer’ in big bold letters,” he said. “It’s kind of provocative, but that’s not the point. My point is to draw attention to the mythological combination between a deer and a bear called a ‘beer,’ and the administrators just didn’t see it that way.”
Yockey said Dalton approached him in the hallway before seventh hour about his shirt’s content.
“He goes, ‘Hey, you can’t wear that shirt,’ and I go, ‘But, I’m wearing it now,”’ he said. “He goes, ‘But you can’t. You have to change.’ Then he took me into the office, and then we took a poll. A couple of ladies in the office were like, ‘Is it or is it not inappropriate?’ They all voted that it was inappropriate, even though it’s not inappropriate. It just says beer in big bold letters.”
Dalton said he asked Yockey to change his shirt because of the alcohol reference.
“The reason he was wearing it was because it said beer, and he wanted to get by with it because it had a bear with deer antlers,” Dalton said. “So, one of the rules [is against promoting] alcohol or drugs. Well, that’s obviously alcohol.”
Yockey said he received a new shirt to wear in place of the “beer” shirt, which he kept.
“The shirt they gave me was really itchy, so I ripped off the sleeves and I tore it into a v-neck,” Yockey said.
Dalton said students have many clothing choices within the boundaries.
“Students have a lot of freedom to wear what they want to wear,” Dalton said. “I went to Catholic school, so [students] had to wear uniforms every day, and the [girl’s] skirt had to be a certain length and everything. Not as much in public school.”
Dalton said he frequently has to censor students clothing.
“It’s kind of your freedom of speech,” he said. “I think it goes under your freedom of speech of what you want to wear on your shirt or how you want to wear it, but it can not promote those three things.”
Dalton said BV also does not allow students to wear hats during school.
“It makes for a respectful place to be,” Dalton said. “I’ve been to different schools where they do allow it, and the atmosphere is truly different.”

TV shows endure censorship over the years 

  • 1942 — Cover Up. Tweety Bird forced to put on some clothes.
  • 1952 — Tight Lipped. Lucille Ball of “I Love Lucy” was pregnant but couldn’t utter the word “pregnant”. She had to say “with child”.
  • 1956 — Elvis’ Pelvis. After an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show where his trademark gyrations are shown, the camera goes to his face as to not “over-stimulate” the public.
  • 1957 — Potty Mouth. An episode of “Leave It To Beaver” was pulled by CBS because a toilet seat would be depicted. Eventually, it aired, but with only the toilet tank shown.
  • 1964-1966 — Button Battle. Mary Ann from “GIlligan’s Island” and Jeannie from “I Dream of Jeannie,” are banned from showing their belly buttons.
  • 1967 — Tall Order. Ed Sullivan, of The Ed Sullivan Show asked the music group The Doors to change their lyrics from “Girl, we couldn’t get much higher,” to something that sounded less like a drug reference.
  • 2006 — Getting the Last Word. “South Park” is banned from using an image of the Prophet Muhammad. However, a tiny picture is added in the opening credits of the show.