I handed out the first in what was supposed to be a series of comic strips at the entrance of my high school, Newton North. The comic strip was titled, “A Day at PCHS,” and it made fun of certain aspects of the school.
The administration was furious with me, and required me to get adviser signatures to pass out any additional cartoons. So I met with a bunch of administrators and teachers to discuss any possible legal issues that might arise from the publication, and drew the next edition of “A day at PCHS”. The second edition mocked different types of teachers at the school (with no sexual or drug comments, or references specific to any teachers). I handed it to my housemaster, who said he would check with other “leaders” of the school to see whether or not they would sign it.
He came back to me, and said that the leaders said that my cartoon did “not comply with North core values”. I could no longer pass out my cartoon on school grounds, even with an adviser signature. He said that the cartoon would have to “respect human differences,” and I asked him if it meant I had to draw black characters and characters in wheelchairs, and he said, “probably.” He said I would have to propose the cartoon as a publication with a mission plan; I would have to run it through the English department head, get it approved by some faculty publication board (but they will never approve of anything politically incorrect), i.e. the administration is, in an insincere, diplomatic way, preventing me from publishing this cartoon.
So, basically, it boiled down to this: Newton North administrators would not let me photocopy a sheet of paper and pass it out at the school to my friends because the cartoon did not comply with North values, i.e. it’s not PC, i.e. it did not respect diversity. One of the main reasons the administration’s actions bothered me is that Newton North claimed to be so open in expression, and so against censorship, yet they didn’t “practice what they preach.”
Afterward the administration denied distribution of cartoons, I stood up for myself. I wrote columns to the school newspaper and told my story to many kids and teachers. Finally, my issue was publicly recognized twice in the community newspaper. Eventually, the school was pressured into compromising with me for fear of their reputation, and they allowed me to distribute the publication near school grounds.
I want other teenagers to know that if your work is censored, stand up for yourself. You have the right to distribute your work. I did so, and now I can distribute my cartoon to students at “PCHS,” and I gained public recognition for the cartoon.
Thanks for your time, and good luck to all you free-spirited teenagers.
— Anna A., Age 16 (going on 17)
Newton North High School
P.S. if you would like to see what all the controversy was about, you can look at my web page: