A message from another librarian explained the situation:
Okay, I know someone will bring this up.The Newspspaper is not delivering to schools today because the publisher believes a story on the front page is "inappropriate for schools"?!I think a response is called for.
The responses from the LMS in our BOCES were variations on this reply:
Please deliver our copies of the Post Star. I will advise our administrators and staff about the questionable photo and let them decide who should have access.
The Publisher's first reply:
"...I didn’t decide that the article wasn’t appropriate for school use – I decided that a photo could be objectionable to some parents. Our plan was to call the schools and ask if you would like them delivered after you had a chance to see the photo. If we had just sent them out and they were passed around without proper notice we would have been accused of being insensitive. Please remember that papers are delivered to elementary schools as well..."
Please note none of the librarians or schools ever received a phone call.
Second, more extended, response from the Publisher:
This will serve as my answer to the many questions on why The Newspaper wasn’t immediately delivered to your school today.
In working on the series about one of our servicemen that died, after injuries sustained while serving his country, we were given a photo of the young man badly burned. We questioned the reaction of readers but decided that it was relevant to the story and the family had supplied the photo, giving permission to print it. Since we didn’t have a lot of time between the decision to print the photo and the delivery of your papers we felt that we should “hold back” the papers to be sure you knew what was printed, giving you the appropriate time to make the decision about distribution in your schools. We should give you 24 hours notice to decide on how you want to handle these matters in your individual classrooms or libraries – we were not able to do this and this is why the decision was made.
There was never any effort to censor or thought that you couldn’t make the proper decision. We understand that you are well-educated adults but we would have been seen as negligent if we just sent them out. I have no doubt that you would have made the right call for your students – if we had given you the proper notice. I wasn’t making the decision for you; I was giving you some time to deal with it on your own. I understand how busy you must be in the morning and I didn’t want this to get missed in the rush.
Some of you have suggested that we should have attached a flyer to the bundle to explain. Flyers fall off of bundles every day and I didn’t want to take the chance that this could happen with such an important message.
I appreciate those of you with professional messages, asking for your papers. Your understanding is appreciated.
Perhaps you’re not used to seeing media trying to show sensitivity to an issue but that’s all I was trying to do. If you believe there was another motive, I’m sorry. We like to put out more newspapers each day, not less.
I apologize for the disruption to your day.
When I read the paper at home that morning, before leaving for school, I was saddened by the photo, did not linger on the disturbing image, did not even notice that the young man was naked except for a towel across his lap. The picture was located on page 4 of the first section; other, less sensational, photos of the soldier were printed on the front page.
I had copied my correspondence with the publisher to our principals and superintendent. Once the newspapers were finally delivered to the school, I showed these administrators the picture in question. We all agreed to make the issue available in the library. There were no comments from the staff members and high school students who read it.
How would this episode have been handled in your district, your BOCES? Did the publisher overstep his authority? Did the librarians overreact?
Who should judge what is appropriate for educational use?
"Blindfold game 1" by Lee Carson