The February issue of Cardinal Columns included a 6-page feature story by its editor-in-chief, Tanvi Kumar, titled “The Rape Joke: Surviving Rape in a Culture That Won’t Let You.” An extremely well-written piece, Kumar drew from the experiences of three Fond Du Lac high school students, “Sarah,” “Emily” and “Mary,” who recount what life is like in the culture of their high school student body. As survivors of rape and sexual assault, all three victims tell harrowing stories of the “Joke” that is commonly made of rape victims and the persistent propensity to blame the victims for the crimes of their perpetrators.
The article concludes with this remarkable paragraph: “Only 46% of surveyed students believe that sexual abuse or harassment is an issue at Fond Du Lac High School, but 80% of them have heard a rape joke in the past month. That’s the rape joke. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before their eighteenth birthday. That’s the rape joke. 60% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. That’s the rape joke… By the time you will have finished reading this, 11 people will have been sexually assaulted. That’s the rape joke. Now ask yourself– did you laugh?”
The school administration did not think much of the story. They have seized control of the student newspaper and will now decide what stories the students can write through new “guidelines.” Every single article must be approved by the principle before print or on-line publication, and only the superintendent can over ride his decision.
Raw Story reports “Under the new guidelines, the school district — as represented by Principal Jon Wiltzius — will determine what the students can write about. “The newspaper, Cardinal Columns, is a publication of Fond Du Lac High School so there is the ability for the principal or the advisor or the superintendent to oversee any of these publications,” he told WBAY,” a local news agency.
Public outrage has resulted in a petition on Change.org, demanding the school reverse their decision and allow the students to continue their work as before this article ran. We support this petition and encourage others to sign it.
At no time in the past can we find record of the school having exercised their editorial control over the student-run publication. It is only this story that has upset their “balance,” and in our opinion, helps embed rape culture rather than expose and eliminate it from the hallways of the high school they are responsible for. One must ask who is in need of protection in order to make such an arbitrary decision, and why their protection of their female students is not a higher priority.
Occupy World Writes supports the students at Fond Du Lac High School and all student journalists who report on real issues within their schools. We reject any authority that would usurp the voices of those wanting to bring positive change to their student body by discussing topics that need to be brought to the forefront.