High School Yearbook Promotes Smoking Marijuana, K2
As a past yearbook editor for my high school I know firsthand how published articles have generated controversy and in some extreme cases, led to court litigation.
In the 2010 Shawnee Mission West High School yearbook in Kansas, a two-page spread depicts students’ opinions and experiences with marijuana and K2 (a synthetic marijuana substitute that was not illegal when the article was written but is now illegal in the state of Kansas.)
K2 “…hits you a lot cleaner and faster,” said a student dubbed “John Marley” in the article.
Since the article does not describe any negative effects of using the illegal products, school officials have received complaints about the article, especially considering that the one of the photographs is a blurred picture of a teen smoking.
The article actually encourages students to use the products to relax and enjoy time with their friends and notes that it is readily available and easily accessible in most suburban towns.
“I like weed better because it is more convenient to get,” a source called “Mary Jane Doe” said in the article. “You don’t have to be 18 to buy weed, it smells better and gives a better high.”
Amy Morgan, the schools journalism teacher and staff advisor said the article was published without her edits on the page because of deadline pressures by the student who had written it, but that even if she did contribute to the article Kansas state law makes it difficult for teachers or administration to effect what topics are published in high school journalism classes.
The law established in 1992 is a response to the landmark 1988 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Missouri case that harshly reduced suppression of student expression. Therefore, now according to Kansas law, school administrators may only censor publication for reasons such as libel, slander, obscenity, disruption of school activity or any matter that “encourages, commends or promotes conduct that is defined by law as a crime.”
So while parents, school staff members and city leaders may be upset with the situation, there really is nothing they can do about it as the yearbook is already hot off the presses, and under state law these high school students cannot be punished for the article.
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