Members of the Fond du Lac School Board faced a packed meeting Monday night, as students and free speech advocates voiced their opposition to new guidelines that allow for more administrative review of student publications at the high school. The policy change was implemented after the February issue of the Cardinal Columns magazine was published. The issue included an article about rape jokes and the rape culture at the high school, which generated a great deal of discussion among teachers and students.
District Superintendent Jim Sebert says the change was not prompted by the article though. Rather, he says a photo on the inside cover suggesting the upper half of a female student wasn’t clothed, a follow up editorial with graphic wording, and an editorial urging students to challenge their teachers by not standing during the pledge of allegiance are what led to the review of the policy. Sebert says “if we create things during a course at the high school, and then that product becomes published and sent around the school and the community, then that is representative of not only the students, but also the school and of the Fond du Lac School District.”
Sebert says he had no problems with the article about rape culture, and felt this was “an article that is important to the students,” that addresses a topic they believe needed more attention. He says “I have no argument with that, at all.”
Critics contend the revised guidelines, which are based on a policy from 1988, amount to censorship. Sebert says the policy covers student publications, but until recently there were no set guidelines for reviewing those publications. UW-Oshkosh Journalism Professor Vincent Filek (FEE-lock) countered that no matter “whatever cuddly and fuzzy term you choose to use, the fact of the matter is this is censorship.”
The board took no action on the policy during its meeting on Monday night.