Posted by Kristen D. Smith
For the past few months, accounts of suicides and bullying of gay adolescents have been prevalent in the news and on social networking sites, such as YouTube and Facebook.
These tragic stories inspired Sean Simonson, a senior at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, a Catholic college-preparatory school in St. Louis Park, Minn., to write a piece for the school newspaper about his life as a gay teen.
“I wanted to stand up and speak out,” Simonson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The staff of the student newspaper, the Knight Errant, expected strong feedback, especially on the newspaper’s website. But when the online debate amounted to almost 100 comments on the story, administrators decided the critical comments were getting too intense.
Simonson, who came out earlier this fall on his Facebook page, said the comments didn’t disconcert him because he knew many students did not think the essay belonged in a Catholic student newspaper.
But administrators took down the article anyway.
School president Bob Tift said in a statement, “The online comments regarding the editorial and opinion piece in question were creating a disrespectful environment as well as confusion about the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
While students understood that the school acted in the best interest of the students’ safety, they disagreed with the school’s decision to remove the article and its comments.
One of the editors at the Knight Errant, senior Bernardo Vigil, said some of the comments were offensive, but that censorship was still censorship. He and other student journalists think administrators felt pressured to take down the essay after receiving calls from online commentators.
“I feel that by complying with those requests, our administration is implying solidarity with them, which is more damaging than allowing the debate to continue,” Vigil said.
Do you think officials made the right decision in taking down the article? What motivations do you think officials had to remove it? Pressure from phone calls from parents? Concern for students’ safety? Too much conflict with Catholic teachings?