When a school newspaper takes on the subject of sex, in some school districts it sparks a great controversy. Not, apparently, in Montgomery County.
In the past month, at least two Montgomery County high school newspapers have published articles or surveys discussing at length sexual intercourse and the use of contraceptives among their schools's students.
In its April 28 edition, the Wintston Churchill High School newspaper, in a separate section, published articles on venereal disease, abortions, runaways whot turn to casual prostitution, and students describing their use of various contraceptives.
A day later tha Walt Whitman High School newspaper published a survey of the student body that showed one-third of the students had engaged in sexual intercourse and that 71 per cent of those had used contraceptives.
The Whitman survey also polled students on such controversial topics as alcohol and drug use, and cheating in school.
In both instances, publication of the articles in the school-financed newspapers apparently provoked no threats of censorship or expressions of outrage. In fact, school officials helped Whiteman students tabulate the results of their comprehensive survey.
The actions of the Montgomery County school officials sharply contrasts with that of Fairfax County school officials.
There school officials have gone to court in an attempt to uphold their suppression of an article on students' sexual conduct and use of contraceptives that was to have appeared in the Hayfield Secondary School newpaper.
The Fairfax school board, voting in March to appear a lower court decision overturning the November, 1976, ban, took the position that school newspapers are part of the school curriculum and thus subject to all school policies.
Fairfax school regulations prohibit the teaching of contraception.
Montgomery County school regulations state that, although school newspapers are a school-sponsored activity, students have a right to decide their content in cooperation with the students' teacher-adviser, a school spokesman said yesterday.
The newspapers must provide for a variety of viewpoints, and a decision of the teacher-adviser or school principal to censor an article can be appealed, the spokesman said.
County school officials changed their policy regarding censorship in 1973 after a ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 3 dispute involving the Churchill newspaper.
The court said school officials may censor a student-edited publication for obscenity or libel, but muse beware of using that right to prevent [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
In response to that decision, county school officials ruled that a school principal cannot prevent publication of a disputed pending an appeal.
School officials and students said there was no attempt to censor or inhibit either of the two newspapers from publishing the articles.
Frank Bready, principal of Churchill High School, said the articles "were written for our students and parents. It was an effort at sex education. The students on the newspaper felt many students were misinformed about these topics."
Bready declined to discuss the issue further, saying he didn't consider then "pertinent to a non school audience. They were written for (the school's community."
Chris Mead and John Rubino, the two members of the Walt Whitman newspaper who conducted the student poll and published its results, said yesterday they had received excellent cooperation from school officials. in a preface to the survey, the two even thanked Whitman Principal Jerome M. Marko and Daniel Solomon of the school research division for the help.
The two seniors said they complied the survey because they suspected the validity of many of the generalizations used to characterize the current crop of adolescents.
"There's been a lot of talk about the decline of drug usage among teen-agers, that teen-agers are now less likely to experiment with sex and alcohol," Rubino said. "Our survey shows that's not so."
Mead and Rubino polled 782 students, one-third of the Whitman's student body. The 71-question survey was distributed during the school lunch periods April 20.
According to the poll, nearly 65 per cent of the students claimed to have at one time used marijuana or hashish, and from 13 per cent to 20 per cent have used cocaine, acid, amphetamines, or barbiturates.
Mead and Rubino said that Whitman students rank above national norms in both alcohol and drug use, an occurrence they speculated may be due to the community's great affluence. "We can't prove it now, but we think it's because the kids here have more money to throw around," Mead said.