HIGHLAND — Parents of a Lone Peak High School student are accusing the school newspaper of breaking Utah's privacy and sex education laws.

Stephen Graham, a Utah County man who also is the head of a nonprofit organization that advocates conservative ideas and traditional values, sent letters to the Utah Attorney General's Office and the Utah State Office of Education about pieces in the publication he found questionable.

"What we're looking for is the school administration, the principal and the school district to admit they broke the law and for them to issue an apology" in a letter sent to all parents, said Graham, president of Standard of Liberty Foundation.

Lone Peak's Principal Chip Koop said Alpine School District attorneys say no laws were broken although he thinks the news story and two opinion pieces could have been handled better.

An attorney with the Utah State Office of Education agreed that the news story followed the law. The opinion pieces could be legal, says Carol Lear, director of school law and legislation for Utah State Office of Education, depending on how students were asked to write the pieces.

When a Gay-Straight Alliance formed at Provo High School in November, the Lone Peak Crusader, the student paper, published student-penned pro and con pieces about whether such clubs are acceptable in schools. Both appeared in the opinion section of the newspaper.

Then in May, the Crusader published a news story and opinion piece about a new vaccine for human papilloma virus.

Graham's daughter wrote the con piece about gay-straight alliances in November. Another student wrote in favor of the alliances.

The Grahams took issue with the pro piece because they felt it advocated homosexuality. Advocating homosexuality is against Utah's sex education law.

The Grahams also believe that both the pro and con articles were in violation of student privacy laws that require parents be notified two weeks in advance of an assignment in which a student could reveal attitudes about sex.

They felt the HPV vaccine news story advocates sexual behavior because it states " . . . the makers of these vaccines strongly suggest having girls as young as 10 become vaccinated" before they could become sexually active.

Even though it's the vaccine manufacturer that wants young girls vaccinated, the school is responsible for all content in the newspaper, Graham said.

"I don't care who the source was in the article," Graham said. "The fact that it was advocated is what breaks the law."

But Lear said Utah's sex education law differentiates between information and advocacy. She believes the news story is informational.

Lear also said that the opinion pieces are probably legal, but it depends on how the students were assigned the stories. If a teacher made students write about their feelings about sex, the law could have been broken.

But if the students volunteered to write their views, she said, then no laws were broken.

"Could the school have censored this (pro) article?" Lear said. "Probably. But that it chose not to isn't necessarily illegal either."

The principal said Alpine School District attorneys agreed that the November opinion pieces were OK. He now wishes he would have prohibited the paper from publishing the Web address for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.

Koop also said the students were supposed to meet and match their arguments point-by-point. But they never met, and Graham's daughter finished the con piece first. The writer of the pro piece read the con piece and formulated a response to the con arguments, which may been an unfair advantage, Koop said.

After the November edition of the newspaper, the Grahams visited the principal and student newspaper adviser. They also contacted the district. They did not feel there was resolution to the issue, which is why they went directly to state officials, including the Utah Attorney General's Office, after the May 15 edition.

But Lear, who received a complaint letter and the articles from the Grahams, said that her office's job is to provide legal advice to schools that seek it. She cannot dictate how schools make decisions.

Sam Jarman, a district administrator over Alpine's high schools, said the district is still studying the news story and opinion piece about HPV to determine if it was appropriate to be published in the school paper.


E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com