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Mountain View High School's Oracle looks to bright future after article controversy

Published March 26, 2013

After recently publishing a two page spread titled “Sex and Relationships” which drew fierce backlash from the community, the Mountain View High School Oracle has “defined [its] values… and figured out what [its] purpose is,” according to the author of the controversial story.

Opinion editor and writer of the piece, Abby Cunniff, and focus editor Chloe Tarrasch spoke to Palo Alto High School beginning journalism students Monday about Feb. 8th’s article discussing sex at the high school level and the frenzy it caused in the local community.

A “vocal minority” of upset parents caused a stir at a recent school board meeting, according to Tarrasch.

Most complaints stemmed from the topic of the article. Some parents said that they did not want their underclassmen children reading about sex in a school publication, and others went on to accuse the paper of promoting questionable behavior, according to Cunniff.

“Some of the parents said that we were promoting illegal activity by writing this article, and that’s just not true… promotion is different than reporting,” Cunniff said. “I was acknowledging something that exists and trying to build upon it in a healthy way.”

“There were a select few who showed up and actually protested… [but] that’s what the administration and the school board members hear because we don’t have all these parents just coming up and saying ‘Oracle is doing a great job,’” Tarrasch added.

Overall, students do offer their support for the paper’s content.

“We all talk about sex so it’s not anything new to us,” Tarrasch said.

Despite this small group of parents that protested to the school board, Mountain View Los Altos High School District superintendent Dr. Barry Groves stood by the article and the paper.

“At the most recent school board meeting… he supported us and didn’t censor us,” Tarrasch said. “[He said] he would have never changed anything that was written.”

Cunniff said that even though they hear what the broader school community is saying, she did not write the article for parents.

“I wrote my article to promote safe and healthy sex for other students,” she said. “Parents may have been upset by this, and it went out to middle schools, [but] those are not the people that I was trying to reach with this article. I think we [now] have a better sense that the community really cares about what we’re writing, but I don’t think we’re going to tailor our content to them.”

Oracle is ready to move on from the controversy and continue to be a strong high school publication.

“We have a lot more viewership now than we have had in the past, which is awesome,” Cunniff said. “I think we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard… now we know that people are reading what we are writing.”

Tarrasch agreed with Cunniff, adding that with the extra attention comes additional pressure.

“Now we definitely have to step up our game to have people really respect us,” she said.


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