Rep. Allen Trovillion's disparaging remarks last month to gay teens lobbying for equal-rights protections reignited a debate, and Edgewater High School was no exception. One of the teens, Chris Vasquez, is editor of that school's newspaper, the Eagle Eye.
His classmate, Jesse Zito, 15, wanted to weigh in. At school, he says, most students (the ones who paid attention to the news, anyway) were supportive of Vasquez -- but not all. Some pointed to the Bible as evidence that homosexuality is immoral and shouldn't be coddled by state law.
So Zito, a writer for the Eagle Eye, crafted a well-written 500-word editorial, arguing that the Bible really preaches love and acceptance, not condemnation and hatred. He says his teacher, Judy Peck, approved the piece, and it was readied for publication.
When it was sent to Principal Mike Blasewitz for final approval, Zito says, he was called into the office and told his story would not appear.
"He told me that this topic was like abortion -- we just shouldn't touch it," say Zito. The principal, he says, agreed with his take on the issue; he just didn't want it printed.
Says Blasewitz: "It wasn't pulled or censored. We just chose not to run it."
Nearly every issue of the monthly paper, he says, has had at least one story cut. Usually, there's not enough space or the story is poorly written or factually inaccurate. Sometimes, though, it's just too political. "I won't allow `the paper` to be a forum for someone's personal, political views," he says.
But Blasewitz says he didn't shy away from a touchy subject. Earlier this school year, the paper did report on a sex-related survey, after precautions were taken to protect students' privacy. "Our job," he says, "is to keep the kids in bounds, not to keep the kids from writing about stuff that interests them."
Zito's experience is fairly common, says Mark Goodman, exceutive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Student Press Law Center. Deleted articles often reflect what school administrators want parents to see, he says. "Editorials `that promote` abstinence are less likely to be censored than editorials that deal with the reality that kids are having sex."
Blasewitz is likely on solid legal ground, Goodman says. But the power to censor, he adds, is one that's used too often.
"No one ever died because a student editorial was controversial," he says. "If schools were as concerned with guns and student apathy as they are with student opinion, we'd have a better school system."
Stone Age Politics-David vs. Goliath
By: Jesse Zito
By: Jesse Zito
The following is the actual article by Edgewater High School student Jesse Zito that was yanked from the school paper prior to publication.
Let me ask a serious question. If a black student were beaten because he is black, then suspended for investigating the fight because he was "too openly black", wouldn't we assume that there was something seriously wrong with the laws? I would hope that everyone in their right mind would have a problem with this delivery of "justice." However, why is it different with any minority who is the victim of violence? This exact situation plauged Thomas Gentile his freshman year of high school. He was beaten for being gay and then suspended for being, "too openly gay" and aggravating the assault.
Recently a group of gay students from around the state went to Tallahassee to discuss the proposal of a law that would protect gay students in this situation. They were invited to meet with Allen Trovillion, a state representative for Winter Park. He waited for the group to finish speaking and then replied with the most disgustingly hateful things I have ever heard of one person saying to another. He told the students, "God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is going to destroy you and a lot of others."
For those of you who are not aware, senior Chris Vasquez was a member of the group that visited Trovillion, witnessing the hateful, prejudiced reply first-hand. Chris was very respectful of Trovillion's opinion and thanked for the chance to speak. I am very proud of Chris because I know that if it were myself in that position, I would have become very angry and probably would not have had the strength to keep myself yelling back. It seems to me that Chris acted more like a Christian than Mr. Trovillion.
Trovillion's hateful message should not be influencing the youth of America. He is a public servant and his personal prejudices have no place in public office. There is no need for such a bigot to be vested with the power to make decisions that influence the daily actions of many individuals.
We need to take an opportunity like this to learn a lesson. The Bible does say, "If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death, their blood shall be upon them." The problem arises when Christians use this passage as a way to persecute homosexuals. The passage comes from the Old Testament and seems wrong to me because, as the name implies, Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus brought forth new rules and among them was of course, "Judge not less ye be judged." Jesus preached for man to love God and to love his fellow man.
People like Trovillion seem to rewrite the scripture and twist it to their whim, picking and choosing the passages that align with their personal philosophies. Not once did Jesus ever say homosexuality is wrong, but he did say a few things that Trovillion may want to reread. "Do not judge or you too will be judged. For the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2). Maybe he would also like to read I John 4:20-21. "If anyone says, ‘I love God,' yet hates his brother, whom he has not seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us the command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother."
Trovillion should read all of the Bible, not just the pants that suit his personal prejudices. I think it's incredibly admirable that there are active students like Chris who want to change laws to protect people from hate crimes. I hope this law is passed and people realize the injustices of their prejudices. Just remember one thing when you are looking to judge someone: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."