SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Students, parents and administrators at San Luis Obispo High School are speaking out amid a brewing controversy involving the school's student newspaper.
The cover of the May edition of SLO Expressions, and the reaction to it on and off campus, is sparking the controversy.
The newspaper cover shows two female students kissing as part of a feature story on the LGBTQ community at San Luis Obispo High School.
"Maybe at first I was a little startled, I was thinking wait, what's happening", said student Kyra Lauritzen about the cover, "but I think that its getting to be like a normal thing and we just have to get used to it."
But a probationary teacher who was notified in February that he is being let go at the end of the current school year did object to the cover and wrote a scathing letter to the editor of the student newspaper quoting verses in the Bible that condemns homosexuality.
"The cover of the paper made me do a double take, but I also know this is a kids paper", said Lisa Ritterbuck who is the parent of a student at the high school, "they're exploring a lot of different things as they should be at this age and learning a lot."
The Superintendent of the school district and the Principal of San Luis Obispo High School issued a lengthy statement in response to the controversy involving the newspaper cover and the letter to the editor from the teacher.
In the statement, the Superintendent and the Principal say the teacher has the same First Amendment right to express his opinion as do the editors and writers of the student newspaper to publish the controversial cover and feature article about the LGBTQ community on campus.
In the statement, the Superintendent and the Principal say public school officials only have the authority to regulate content of student publications so that it conforms to the professional standards of English and Journalism and to ensure the content of the speech is not against the law.
The Superintendent and the Principal in their joint statement say this is a "teachable moment" and go on to say "we encourage a robust debate of these issues in a manner that promotes mutual respect. This is always a challenge given controversial topics, while maintaining our mission to ensure that every student excels academically, builds character, and is safe and welcomed at school. Despite the disparate viewpoints surrounding this issue, we encourage San Luis Obispo High School students, staff, and community to engage in respectful discourse and to model an environment where impassioned issues and viewpoints can be discussed freely. "
"The kids have a lot of perspective about it and I think parents need to realize that kids are a lot smarter than what some parents give them credit for", said parent Kenny McCarthy, "I'm certain it has affected some kids and hopefully this will have a positive dialogue, learn from this and move on."