An open letter to the community

The response to our special edition magazine has been unprecedented. While we have heard a lot of positive feedback from students and parents alike, we have also received criticism from a handful of community members who are concerned about the publication of our magazine – in particular, our cover story on teenage sex as well as our promotional materials. The Panther Prowler would like to take this opportunity to respond to these concerns and elaborate on our reasoning for featuring the topic of teenage sex.

As members of the Panther Prowler staff, we have the unique opportunity to be both members and observers of the student population at Newbury Park. Because of this, we understand that sex is something that plays a role in many of our peers’ lives. Almost every high schooler is affected by sex – whether they are hearing about it from friends, listening to rumors in the hallways, seeing it alluded to in the media, or are themselves choosing to have sex. It’s something that teenagers talk about without being well informed – something we confirmed when we interviewed students who have had sex and wished they would have known more at the time of their decision instead of being forced to turn to unreliable sources, such as the Internet or friends. They spoke to us about an intimate subject in order to help inform other students who might feel just as lost as they did about the complexities of the issue.

If you have not yet read the article, we encourage you to do so. In it, we feature students with a variety of perspectives in order to provide an accurate representation of the role of teen sex in our community. We discuss the taboo nature of “the talk” and the importance of an open dialogue; detail the factors that affect the decision to have sex; highlight both the physical and emotional consequences of having sex as a minor; distinguish emotional relationships from physical ones; present religious perspectives; explain California’s current laws regarding underage sex; and examine the current sex education curriculum taught at NPHS.

Many of the complaints were centered around the pictures we featured and the posters we used to advertise the magazine. Some felt that the images were obscene or scandalous. The overarching theme of our coverage is that many teenagers choose to engage in sexual activity without being properly informed of the consequences due to a lack of sex education in and outside the classroom. We felt that it was fitting to feature a condom on a banana for our cover because it is the quintessential image of sex education. Moreover, it is a nurse-honored, military-practiced, and physician-approved method of teaching safe sex, and while it is not employed at NPHS, public schools across the nation model the proper method of practicing safe sex as a part of their official health curriculum. For this reason, we felt it reflected the angle of the article without sensationalizing the issue.

In terms of the posters, we maintain that they were not obscene or pornographic. While they may have been suggestive, they were not revealing. That being said, we did take them down several days before the distribution of the magazine. We didn’t want the buzz surrounding the posters to detract from our original intention of starting a productive dialogue and for that reason, we chose to focus on what is important – the article.

It is important to note that while our adviser and administration did protect our guaranteed freedom of press, they did not produce or in any way endorse the magazine. The decision to publish and distribute the magazine rested solely with the editors of the publication, not the adviser or the administration, as explained in California Education Code section 48907 (which enumerates student publication rights and can be found online here).

If we had chosen to avoid the topic of teenage sex because of its taboo nature, we would further be perpetuating the lack of conversation that inspired us to write the article in the first place. Not talking about the issue does not make it disappear.

Sincerely,

Grace O’Toole & Courtney Brousseau, Co-Editors-in-Chief, and the Panther Prowler staff


You can read our cover story here.

The Panther Prowler will be accepting letters to the editors. If you are interested in submitting a letter in response to the magazine, please visit www.pantherprowler.org/about for more information. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to email us at prowler.newspaper@gmail.com.

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