In February 2014, Fond du Lac High School's school-sponsored Cardinal Columns published a feature article by senior Tanvi Kumar titled "The Rape Joke", documenting Rape Culture in school and its effects on students who are survivors of sexual abuse.
The article, a relevant, compelling and exceptionally well-written piece, became a topic of conversation among students, teachers, and classes. So much so, that the only feedback received by the Cardinal Columns staff was purely positive.
However, Dr. James Sebert, the Fond du Lac School District Superintendent, didn't find the article favorable. In particular, he found it too negative, not representative of the school body, and felt it didn't need to be in the paper. He was so displeased by it that he actually enacted new guidelines adding detail to existing policy.
The new guidelines (found in School Board Policy 9.1052) ensures articles such as The Rape Joke would not be published in the future. This ensures that any article he or Principal Jon Wiltzius doesn't like, will not see the light of day.
Board Policy 9.1052 -- Student Publications states:
- All school-sponsored publications shall be subject to review by the principal prior to print and publication. The principal may refuse to publish any materials that substantially interfere with the educational process, educational environment, or rights of other students, or materials that may be reasonably perceived to associate the school with any position other than neutrality on matters of political controversy. In addition, the principal may refuse to publish any materials that are poorly written, inadequately researched, false, defamatory or libelous, vulgar or profane, unsuitable for immature audiences, or biased or prejudiced. The principal's decision is subject to final review by the Superintendent.
This would be somewhat justified if the law was broken or significant harm was done, but nothing of that nature resulted. In reality, "The Rape Joke" had an incredibly positive effect, allowing an open forum for discussion about sexual abuse, a subject found to be especially taboo in an educational setting such as high school.
The staff of Cardinal Columns did nothing wrong. The matter, of which has a large impact on much of the student body, was reported on professionally, insightfully, and honestly. In addition to this, there were additional resources and contact information to supply survivors of sexual abuse with the information to get any necessary assistance.
Not only does this policy stop students from writing hard-hitting news stories in the future, but it's also a loss for those affected by serious issues (such as sexual abuse) that could be deemed "unsuitable for immature audiences".
Please sign the petition and help put an end to the arbitrary censorship of students.
- FDLSD Superintendent
Dr. James Sebert
Reverse FDLSD School Board Policy 9.1052
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