After Parent’s ‘Sex and Death’ Protest, School Kicks Paper Out of School

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After a parent complained about the “sex, death and general mayhem” in newspapers, a suburban elementary school here decided to cut off students’ access to free copies provided by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The Pioneer Press had been available to students for several years at Deerwood Elementary School through its Newspapers in Education program. All kids had to do was pick up one of the 30 copies left daily on a counter in the media center.

Until now.

“There are many great articles in the newspaper that are appropriate for elementary students,” Principal Miles Haugen told KARE-TV. “However there are some articles in there that we would not want exposed to elementary-aged students.”

The parent of a 7-year old sent the school an e-mail last week complaining that the newspaper is “not appropriate reading material for elementary-aged kids.”

Deerwood Elementary’s media director offered to not make the paper available to her child, but continue allowing other students access to the newspaper.

The parent, who was not named in the report, rejected that, saying it “would silently endorse the kids reading them. It’s like leaving a loaded gun on the table.”

Forbidding her child “to take one will only make the paper a fascinating forbidden fruit,” the parent said in a message quoted by KARE-TV on Thursday. “We don’t want (child’s name) exposed to the sex, death and general mayhem that have become the standard fodder for newspapers and TV news. We are not just trying to protect our child but all the kids (child’s name) goes to school with and lives in the world with.”

The principal then blocked all students from having ready access to the newspapers. They are now left behind the counter, where they remain available to teachers and staff.

“I’m sure there might be some schools that have the newspaper available,” Haugen said. “The thing that I have a concern about is that a student, randomly picking up a newspaper and a 6- or 7-year-old picking up a newspaper and finding ads about some sex scandal in Washington.”

Managers at the Pioneer Press weren’t aware of such restrictions at any other school.

“This caught us by surprise,” said Randy Johnson, who manages the Newspapers in Education program at the Pioneer Press.

It’s up to each school to decide how the newspapers in the program are used, Johnson said, but added that he sees great value in putting newspapers in classrooms.

“It’s a daily textbook. It’s one of the greatest ways of teaching kids current events. It’s used for teaching students how to read,” he said.

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