I recently talked to a friend of mine who attends Kings High School — which is the school 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn attended for some time before switching to the Ohio Virtual Academy.
Leelah, a transgender girl, committed suicide on December 28, 2014 because she felt like she could never truly be who she wanted to be because of the surrounding environment and people, including transgender conversion therapy.
You’d think that, after this tragic event, Kings School District would have implemented some policies for tolerance, for anti-LGBTQ bullying or creating safer spaces for LGBTQ youth. According to my friend who is a junior at KHS, there hasn’t been much of a change, though a quick search on WCPO let me know that counselors were made available by phone and the basketball teams held a moment of silence. KHS also held a candlelight vigil shortly after her death. I didn’t find any information regarding policies or programs advocating for LGBTQ safe spaces or against LGBTQ bullying.
I asked my friend if someone who we know at Kings who is gay is taking his boyfriend to prom. He replied that no, he didn’t think it wasn’t allowed. I don’t have information about whether or not gay couples are allowed at Kings’ proms, but my friend said most of the gay students at his school weren’t out. He said he could only think of five openly gay students, whereas at Mason High School the list never ends.
We both thought it was a little ridiculous that gay couples weren’t allowed at Kings’ prom, or at least that their appearances weren’t common, and that gay students felt uncomfortable or unsafe bringing a same-sex date.
I asked him if his school had a newspaper and he nearly laughed at the question. He pulled up an online news site on his phone, populated with quick tidbits of news, but it doesn’t have an opinion section or any kind of forum for student opinions. So students who feel strongly about Leelah’s call to “fix society. Please” or who may have known her personally can only sit idly by watching as their friends stay hidden in the closet, at prom or elsewhere.
It’s times like these when I notice how lucky I am to be attending MHS and to be working as editor of the newspaper. Our opinion section thrives, thanks especially to the incredible work of Jessica Sommerville, Madison Krell and our columnist staff. Our staff editorials consistently take an intelligent perspective on light and heavy topics alike — ranging from our generation’s desensitization of terrorism to bathroom graffiti. We have Tweets to the Editor which allow MHS students to use social media to voice their opinions on our hot-button questions like how far is too far when directing social-media angst toward the superintendent.
The Chronicle is also fortunate enough to have Emily Culberson, the Business Manager, and Ashton Nichols who is diligently learning how to take Emily’s place next year when she graduates. Through advertising with various businesses, Emily and Ashton supply all of the money to print the newspaper. We receive no additional funding from the school — because we don’t really need it. Emily and Ashton do such a great job that we are able to operate completely self-sufficiently.
Some other schools, like Steinmetz College Prep high school in Chicago, didn’t have enough money to support its printing. Luckily, Hugh Hefner, a graduate from Steinmetz, pitched in money to keep the newspaper running for five years.
But not every school has an Emily or an Ashton or a Hugh Hefner — many school newspapers have been forced to fold because their staff cannot support the funds.
According to The Chicago Tribune:
In 1991, nearly 100 percent of Chicago public high schools surveyed in a study byRoosevelt University‘s College of Communication had newspapers. By 2006, the number had dropped to 60 percent, according to Linda Jones, associate professor of journalism at Roosevelt.
This can be attributed to a bigger interest in social media, teachers’ focus on standardized testing and diminishing interest in the news media in general.
Further in the same article from The Chicago Tribune:
At Morgan Park High School, English teacher Keith Majeske used to have to hide stacks of newspapers in the school’s main office so students wouldn’t grab them before they were ready for distribution. Today, stacks go untouched for days — unless it’s an issue with prom pictures or Valentine’s Day personal ads.
This is particularly interesting to me — especially since we spend so much time working the kinks of our cover page. We try to make something appealing to a huge demographic, hoping that everyone will be eager to pick up our paper. But lack of interest is lack of interest, and we’re very fortunate that our student body (on the whole) thinks highly of The Chronicle.
Journalism has the potential to make change. At Kings High School, it could allow gay couples to safely attend prom together, or for the school to implement anti-bullying policies. And I hope it does. High school journalism in particular is crucial because it provides a forum for students to be heard.