School paper draws fire for article

Montrose board says it won’t censor stories

Feburary 2007 issue of Montrose High School’s Metor Chronicle newspaper

By Eric Reinagel | Press & Sun-Bulletin

MONTROSE, Pa. — The Montrose Area School District board vowed not to censor its high school newspaper after some district residents complained about the content of an article about having sex with friends.

The article appeared in a February edition of the Montrose Area Junior Senior High School paper The Meteor Chronicle and detailed students’ choices and thoughts about “friends with benefits” — in other words, friends who have sex with each other outside a committed relationship.

The article appeared in the “Life As We Know It” section of the paper, which is a year-long series devoted to informing teens and the community about some of the issues teens face. Previous issues have addressed dysfunctional families, online dating and the morning-after pill.

In the February edition, “Elementary News” appeared a few pages after the controversial story and included four quotes and pictures from district elementary students telling how they spend a snow day.

District residents who receive the Mulligan’s Shopping Guide are also delivered the school’s newspaper at their homes.

More than 50 people attended the school board meeting Monday night, where the board decided to form a committee to review The Meteor Chronicle before it is distributed throughout the district.

High School Principal James Tallarico said he wants to be involved early in the process to review content. He said he would make suggestions to writers to make sure subjects are fully explored.

“That is not censorship,” he said. “I will not force them to rewrite it.”

He also said the school would consider putting warning labels on articles to identify to readers content that is better suitable for mature audiences.

Melinda Zosh, a senior who was the article’s main author, said the idea came from talk the paper’s staff overheard in the hallways.

“It wasn’t one or two individuals — it was more than that,” she said. “We decided it was definitely an issue that needed to be written about.”

Taxpayers had mixed reactions.

“I’m opposed to that kind of content,” said Bill McVaugh, a Liberty Township resident.

He said that perhaps the paper could generate its own revenue so taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for such a product. Others said they wanted the option to not receive home delivery of the paper.

Lisa McVaugh, a Halstead resident, said she previously had her second-grader read the entire paper to her and was shocked by the “friends with benefits” article.

“Why was it in the paper my second-grader could read?” she asked.

Laura McCarey, a Bridgewater Township resident, said she applauded the subject of the article as something that needs to be addressed.

“Parents, we cannot keep our heads in the sand,” she said.

But she also said the article should have included more about the consequences of casual sex with multiple partners.

“Not utilizing that article to its full potential, you did a disservice,” she said.

The Rev. Gerald Safko, of Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church in Montrose, said, “I think the article is very courageous.”

But he said the “friends with benefits” lifestyle described in the article is, of course, against Scripture. He also expressed concerned about the “dangerous” effects this kind of sexual behavior would have on these teenagers’ emotional and sexual development.

Journalism teacher Sandy Kaub said that perhaps the article could have been more fully developed, but she doesn’t want one article to bring down a long tradition at the award-winning newspaper.

“I would urge you to keep your eye on the bigger picture,” she told the school board.

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