Flyer policy supports safe environment

Claire Borgelt, Columnist

Recently, a new policy regarding bulletins and posters for school organizations has been enacted in our school. In order to display messages in the hallways or on bulletin boards, students must submit a copy of their poster to the office, where it will be stamped for approval.

When asked about what lead to the creation of this new procedure, principal Brian Borowski cited issues in the past that warranted a change. “There has been an increase of incidents over the past few years with students putting up materials that cause stress and anxiety or are not school appropriate. When students choose to put up items that are not approved by advisors or the administrative team, these posters need to be removed by custodial staff or administration,” he explained. He then described the need for a safe space where students could share their messages. “There have also been several incidents of students removing posters placed throughout the school or defacing them. The students responsible for posting inappropriate items in the school and/or defacing posters have faced consequences, but this is a very reactive approach. Students feel belittled or bullied when their posters are defaced; we are hoping to decrease that stress for students so that they know that their posters are safe from individuals who do not agree with their message. It is really about providing a safe learning environment for all students.” 

The new policy has been met with support from staff, who recognize the need for a more proactive approach to protecting students’ messages. So far, every poster has been approved, and students have complied with the necessary procedures. However, the measures taken in the school environment raise discussions of free speech and the extent to which opinions should be shared in the public sphere — both in institutions such as Waunakee High School, and on a broader societal scale. 

The reality of the situation in both cases is that although each person is entitled to express their beliefs freely, there exists a line that cannot be crossed. That line is clearly drawn at opinions that diminish the safety of an environment or make those who also wish to express their beliefs feel silenced. The inalienable rights of each member of this society include free speech, but they also include the pursuit of happiness. If a statement infringes on these protections for another individual by causing them fear or anxiety, or barrs them from contributing their voice to the dialogue of their environment, it is more suited to remaining unexpressed. This is true on any scale, from the internet to the hallways and poster boards of a high school. It is for this reason that the poster policy’s principles stand strong against any debate. Its intent is not to silence students or limit their voices, but to ensure that the sentiments shared are productive rather than discriminatory or threatening. 

In addition to promoting a protected communication system for students and organizations, adopting a system for respectful discourse in this setting will encourage the same behavior later in life. Having been exposed to an environment where opinions can be freely and safely expressed will condition students to feel comfortable sharing their voices even after graduating. They will have had a young life that allowed them to speak free of fear, and will therefore possess none as young adults. This is largely beneficial; society is improved by a myriad of sentiments. Diversity in opinion is more productive than blind agreement.