In Defense of the Op-Ed


Abigail Ritzman

Op-Eds, or opposite the editorial pieces, have been making appearances in newspapers for over a century. The column offers a variety of writers the opportunity to share their opinions on virtually any subject.

At the Patriot, our staff writers have the opportunity to write op-eds about topics that we feel passionately about. Because the Patriot is a school publication, we are required to choose appropriate topics and write respectfully, regardless of our feelings or positions on a subject. Because many topics and current events may be controversial, there have been instances where op-eds have not been allowed to be published. While I understand the need for oversight, especially when the newspaper is funded by the school, I also recognize the potential for more leeway to be given to student writers who would like to see their work published.

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988) was the Supreme Court case that determined that schools have the right to censor student-written work in school publications, but only in the case of “legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Once again, I acknowledge the need for oversight, but to what extent?

Central Bucks School District has seen more than its fair share of controversy, but the best way to overcome such conflict is not by denying its existence, but by teaching the upcoming generation how to manage it productively. An op-ed can be about a controversial subject without itself becoming controversial. Topics like mental health and recent school board policies can create some tension. There is no denying the fact. However, a well-researched, respectfully written article will not feed the flames of that tension. The more we encourage this from students, the better-equipped we will be to understand one another, and to end conflict.

I appreciate administration in the school and the district for allowing the Patriot newspaper to be such an opportunity for students to learn this vital skill. I would request and encourage that this opportunity would not be taken away from students in the name of avoiding controversy. Unfortunately, controversy will exist whether or not people write about it, but conflict can and will be avoided when respectful discourse is encouraged.