Wichita, Kansas School District Defends Publication of High School Editorial Citing Verses from Leviticus


Concerning the Feb. 11, 2011 opinion piece published in the East High Messenger by Wichita East High School student reporter Colin Johnson, it is important to note several facts.

This article, like the hundreds of opinion pieces published throughout the school year in student newspapers throughout the Wichita Public Schools, is the opinion of one individual. As with opinions expressed in community media outlets such as the Wichita Eagle and local television stations, the views of one person do not necessarily represent the school or district opinion or position on an issue. Mr. Johnson’s piece is the expression of his opinion, a right afforded to him and all students through the First Amendment and the Kansas Student Publications Act, which specifically notes that “material shall not be suppressed solely because it involves political or controversial subject matter.”

East High administration, teachers and student editors recognized that the opinion of this one student author would prompt potentially uncomfortable reactions and passionate responses from individuals with a variety of perspectives. To this end, East High Principal Ken Thiessen met with members of his school’s student organization representing students with alternative lifestyles, explained the circumstances leading to publication of this student opinion, and invited students with a different viewpoint to respond with their own opinion piece. Messenger student editors prepared and published their own response to Mr. Johnson’s editorial, consulted with the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC, and have continued the long-standing Messenger tradition of inviting students with different opinions to participate in the conversation.

The opinion of one student writer does not change the Wichita Public Schools’ commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment for all students. Our high school student newspapers fulfill an important role as we work to prepare students to become critical thinkers and contributing citizens of our community upon graduation. Our district will continue to encourage respectful dialogue and open conversation about a variety of issues, while at the same time ensuring the rights of all students.


  1. bklynbryan says

    With the exception of referring to “alternative lifestyles,” it seems like the school district may have handled this appropriately. And using that phrase strikes me as ignorant but not malicious.

  2. Chad says

    Copied this once and it again seems appropriate:
    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

    Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighborin­g nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

    I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanlin­ess – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

  3. Wes says

    Lets consider the reaction if a Muslim student wrote an ‘editorial’ quoting verses from the Koran which encourage death against their fellow students.

    There’d probably be hangings in effigy and a week straight of coverage on Fox News.

    Christian bigotry, however, is coddled and nurtured. Because its ours.

  4. brian says

    I’m called BS on this. It is obvious where the school district stands on this issue. They would never allow the publication of an article that threatened and called for the execution of any other group.

  5. Wes says

    Yea if some kid kills a gay kid, because you know god says so just like the school editorial said, lets not sit around feigning surprise that something like this could have happened in 2011 America.

  6. JonB says

    I obviously can’t speak for the school district and what their motives were, but I really don’t think that this is wrong. I’m an ardent supporter of free speech and student rights. Sometimes that means that people will express opinions that are anathema to me. That’s part of the deal. Perhaps the school should have sought out a contrary editorial to print along side the one they did print… maybe that would have been a bit more balanced in terms of editorial integrity. However, this is a free speech issue, not a gay rights issue, no matter the underlying content.

  7. Wes says

    JonB, advocating religious-based murder of fellow students goes beyond free speech rights and reflects on the school’s horrendous judgment. Perhaps someone should publish an article promoting eugenics or genocide, and in the name of free speech the school should publish it. Lets not keep our minds so open that our brains fall out.

  8. says

    I was the editor of my school newspaper back in 1983-84. I had an entire April Fool’s issue cancelled by the instructor. He thought it was well-done and funny, but our editorial mandate was that any published material not be: “Libelous, obscene, or likely to cause disruption.” He was not clear on which categories we violated. I still got an A! But shouldn’t this ANY school paper have similar standards?

  9. Disgusted American says

    Im sorry but schools HAVE A responsibility to the SAFETY of ALL its students…period! If this student paper had called up anti-(insert minority) of anyone else besides LGBT people, the Uproar would have been deafening! Eff Kansas…the ONLY good thing to come from that state is SMALLVILLE, and Wizard of Oz

  10. TANK says

    BKLYNBRIAN is an ignorant idiot. OF COURSE the school’s use of the phrase “alternative lifestyles” is meant to be malicious. A “lifestyle” implies choice. Being gay is neither.

  11. bobbyjoe says

    “…and invited students with a different viewpoint to respond with their own opinion piece.”

    So, if I were those students, I’d write a Swiftian “Modest Proposal” response that cites arguments that anti-gay bigots should be rounded up and executed for the public good.

    Let’s really see if they’re given the same free-speech leeway the Levitcus-citing bigoted anti-gay nincompoops received from the school board. Put it to the test.

  12. Wes says

    I eagerly await next month’s religious-based school editorial on “Transferring Ownership of Females in a Biblically Correct Fashion” and “Slave Owning God’s Way: Do’s and Don’ts”

  13. Ted says

    So if the students opinion had been that all African American’s and Asians should be put on a island in the Pacific, the school district would have had no problem printing that opinion?????

  14. Francis says

    The school hasn’t ONCE said what this kid is wrong. Not once has the school said that Colin Johnson was wrong to say homosexuality is socially disruptive and essentially saying all gays should die. Not ONCE have they said it’s not OK. So, therefore, we all should realize exactly where they stand here. They don’t think it’s wrong whatsoever. And they don’t truly care about their LGBT students, because if they did, they would never allow such a piece to run on their SCHOOL NEWSPAPER which is a direct representation of them.

    Time to bring out the claws everyone.

  15. Alex says

    Free speech is one thing, provoking violence is another. I attended East High junior and senior years. I don’t know how it’s now, but back then a lot of troubled teens were my classmates. For example, my locker was on the first floor, and two girls got in a fight about 15 feet from my locker. One ended up stabbing the other one in the neck.
    The school’s response was a good start, but it’s only a start. They need to be more proactive against any violent reprecussions this and other hate speech like this brings. High school is already a powder keg ready to explode, here and anywhere, with these kinds of “freedoms of speech” are just sparks. They might as well put bulls-eyes on yearbook pictures (sorry, surveying target). Good thing I moved away to Texas. Wait a minute…

  16. MikeInSanJose says

    Wichita… Isn’t that right down the street from the Phelps’ in Topeka? (139.4 miles, 2 hr 8 min)

    The stench from Kansas is getting pretty over-powering.

    Surely there’s a FEW sane individuals there…?

    Dorothy? Toto? Auntie Em? ANYONE???

  17. mark says

    Someone ought to site the rest of Leviticus where anyone working on the Sabbath shall be stoned, etc. etc. etc. Picking and chosing phrases from the Bible is the Rights favorite past time.

  18. jaragon says

    This kid obviously comes from some extreme religious background- his views are bit extreme let’s kill people because they want to date ?! But at the same time his freedom of speech should be protected ( yes even if its hate speech)

  19. Randy says

    This is not an issue of free speech, as currently practised. Advocating the murder of a group of people based on a characteristic (i.e. genocide) is called hate speech.

    If we can make the broadcast of a nipple illegal, then surely this is also illegal, and frankly criminal.

  20. Keith says

    I believe in free speech, and feel the school’s response was certainly within the parameters of decency; however, the student’s use of the Bible as a weapon and to suggest that death is the only viable outcome for students who are gay is to me a thinly veiled threat. As my pastor notes, the Bible was never written nor intended to be used as a weapon, and that such zealots are grossly misinterpreting the text and taking passages out of context to use them in the current debate. Perhaps if a religious scholar were to respond in kind in the student paper, they might actually learn a thing or two about what the Bible really has to say about homosexuality.

  21. Yuki says

    While I’m inclined to support free speech, this seems to me to be a thinly-veiled threat, particularly because they specifically mention that the Bible sentences gays to death, supposedly.

    And, well, where I’m at (Arizona, for the record), I very rarely found anyone that outspokenly hated me for dating another guy in high school, and neither did either of my boyfriends that were in high school. It’s less a disruption than the straight couples making out in hallways.

  22. says

    This B.S. OUT of Wichita should not surprise anyone… After Dade County Florida voted to rescind a Gay Rights Ordinance in june 1977, that prompted an impromptu march in San Francisco noted by the Associated Press… several other cities rescinded gay rights ordinances including Wichita Kansas and Eugene Oregon. And each time it happened… Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones spearheaded marches in response. It is sad to think over 30 years later… those school systems has not joined the 21 century to stamp OUT hatred.