Older News, but still good: Looking back at El Camino Real High School's embarrassing bout with censorship last week, it's hard not to conclude that the Woodland Hills campus would be better off if the students -- and not the administrators -- were in charge.
Because while the students have demonstrated humor, common sense and self-restraint, school officials have shown themselves to be humorless, unreasonable and knee-jerkingly reactive.
This absurd saga begins with the school's award-winning drama club, which in June is putting on the political parody, "The Complete History of America (Abridged)." The original jacket for the play features George Washington adorned with a Groucho Marx mustache and cigar, and club members updated that image by replacing one George W. with another -- President Bush -- then posted the signs around campus.
The idea was to symbolize the play's two themes -- politics and satire -- and it was a squeaky clean execution. Nothing raunchy, nothing distasteful, nothing hateful, mean-spirited or even snide.
Still, in this age of hypersensitivity, extreme political correctness, zero-tolerance idiocy and bone-headed administrators, it was all too much.
First, a single student complained to the principal's office. The irreverent treatment of the president, he said, hurt his feelings as a Bush supporter. Moreover, he thought the mustache made Bush look "like an Israeli" -- whatever that means.
At this point, responsible administrators would have told the kid to get a grip. We live in a free society; people are going to express opinions you don't like. Get over it.
But rather than helping the child to grow up -- which is what schools are supposed to do -- El Camino Real's administrators decided to coddle him. "If something is bothering a student on campus," said Principal Kenny Lee, "we're going to address it. We're not going to sweep it under the table."
(Note to El Camino Real students: Next time you forget to study for a chemistry exam, just tell your teacher that the thought of testing is "bothering" you.)
Next, Lee checked in with a Los Angeles Unified School District attorney and his superiors. Just in case over-sensitivity was too flimsy a pretext for removing the posters, they found two others: The portrayal of Bush suggested a political leaning, and the president's stogie implicitly endorsed smoking.
With that, the school ordered the posters taken down. And with good reason, members of the drama club felt as though the constitutional freedoms they study in their history classes somehow don't apply to them.
But the students took it in stride. They didn't pitch a fit, or stage some noisy protest.
Instead, they made new posters, this time with a white silhouette where Bush's head had once been. Inside the blank space, they inserted little bits of political commentary. One message: "Free Expression for All (unless you are in high school)."
Inside the outline of what had been the president's cigar now read a tongue-in-cheek public-service announcement: "ECR Drama hates smoking."
It was a sensible and witty response that was everything the administration's overblown reaction wasn't: mature, smart, measured.
All in all, this story makes us rather confident and optimistic about the kids coming out of the LAUSD -- albeit less so about the supposed adults in charge.