Letter to the Editor regarding Censoring Freedom of Expression

Hunter Sanders

The definition of censorship is “to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable.” When we think of censorship, we think of restrictions on media, or historical censorship, as a thing of the past. Far less often do we consider censorship as something interfering in our everyday life. However, now you can often see censorship on personal expression, and it is appalling.  When we look further, we can see how unjust this is too, and students across the nation face this censorship every day. Statistics show that twenty five to thirty five percent of students have body piercings, however, across the nation, stories of students being suspended, expelled, or otherwise punished for these can be found. And within schools, when the policies are enforced they take time from administration that could be used on dealing with serious issues.

            A student in Georgia was punished with in-school suspension for thirty days for piercings before he was removed from school by his mother. A student at Pimlico High School faced detention after detention with threats of expulsion for wearing earrings, which she claimed to wear to cover surgery scars.  A yearbook page featuring tattoos and piercings of staff and students at an Indiana school caused great controversy for the staff. I myself am on expulsion warning, here at Joliet West, for nothing but piercing offenses. But the piercing trend only is increasing, and the policies, championing various debates, continue to interfere with the lives of students who simply want to go to school.

            Even the staff has mixed feelings about these policies. At some of the aforementioned schools, teachers either did not care or had piercings themselves, and that’s for a simple reason: teachers view school as an educational environment. We are here to learn. Piercings have absolutely nothing to do with this. With the prevalence they have achieved, piercings are not a distraction in class. They are seen daily, with or without rules against them. Piercings have no effect on learning. However, the enforced policies on piercings do. I have missed over two solid weeks of school personally due to suspensions from piercings. I have been called down to the dean’s office an innumerable amount of times, getting pulled from classes. The only way piercings negatively affect my education is through censorship consequences.       

            And how much time is wasted on these minimal offenses? I have personally spent at least an hour and a half in the dean’s office with all the incidents together. This is one student. Imagine all the piercing offenses the staff must face each and every day. Time is extremely valuable, and many other issues could be worked on using this time, making this school a safer, more educationally beneficial institution. Teachers and staff should be able to focus on students, education, and school safety, not piercings. And my time should be spent in class, not suspended for piercings.

            Not all teachers want to enforce this, not all deans want to suspend kids for this, and no students want to deal with this. Here at Joliet West, the only explanation for this censorship is that it is a district policy. A board of officials is determining policies, but they do not see the full effects of these policies. The system is self contained, and generally does not go farther than the dean. If the board knew students were missing class, staff was spending hours dealing with small issues, and that it created a feeling of separation between the staff, trying to enforce policy, and students, trying to seek self expression, would they continue this? Personally, I doubt it.