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Thu Apr 25, 2019, 10:59 AM

'Free speech isn't free, is it?': Story on teen porn worker could cost HS journalism teacher her job

BigLoganActHat Retweeted

After a student newspaper sought to write about a student who performs in adult films, administrators said the article might be "obscene" and a School Resource Officer started asking the advisor about "sex trafficking."

Morning Mix
‘Free speech isn’t free, is it?’: A story on a teen porn worker could cost a high school journalism teacher her job

By Isaac Stanley-Becker
April 25 at 6:09 AM

The whispers wound their way through the hallways of Bear Creek High School in Stockton, Calif. They said a senior at the school was working in adult entertainment. ... Her name came up in March at a pitch meeting of the Bruin Voice, the award-winning high school newspaper, whose motto is, “The Voice shall not be silenced!” ... Someone said, “There’s a girl on our campus who does porn.” ... The student journalists knew what to do — a profile of the girl, or, really, the woman. She’s 18.

A writer and editor for the paper, Bailey Kirkeby, volunteered. She felt comfortable approaching the target of the rumors because both participated in speech and debate. The subject agreed to cooperate, even asking that her name be used. A legal adult, she wanted to tell her story, hoping it would quiet the whisper network.

The profile is almost complete, set to be published in the May 3 issue of the newspaper, which is led by an all-female editorial board. The piece charts the student’s path into the porn industry, including a fallout with her parents that led her to leave home last year. It humanizes her, said Bailey, a 17-year-old junior. One thing readers may not know, she said, is that their classmate is a “romantic.”

Now, however, the story is encountering resistance from school administrators. The officials are threatening to dismiss the newspaper’s faculty adviser, who was recently named educator of the year by the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists, if she doesn’t submit the article to them for prior review.

The demand, which has become more frequent nationwide as students have taken on sensitive topics ranging from sexuality to gun violence, has opened a bitter debate over censorship and free expression in California’s Central Valley. The students are pushing back, as they have done at schools all over the country, including in Washington, where journalists at Woodrow Wilson High School reached an agreement with their principal in 2015 to end the policy, opposed by aspiring young writers.

Isaac Stanley-Becker is a reporter on The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. Follow https://twitter.com/isaacstanbecker

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