Category Archives: viewpoint

The administration censors Falconer article on manufacture and use of dabs

On March 10, Principal Clarence Burton told The Falconer that he would not permit the publication of an in-depth article written about dabbing, the smoking of a highly concentrated form of marijuana that’s popular in the student drug subculture. After being notified of the potentially controversial article, Burton asked to review the article prior to publication, and then denied publication on the grounds that the information might endanger the health or safety of students. This is a new phase in the history of The Falconer, which has not been censored in over 36 years, if ever.

The article is a well written, extensively researched, unbiased, and informative piece that  relies on several student sources to document first-hand experiences with the drug. The article discusses what dabbing is and identifies numerous risks associated with the use and manufacture of the drug. Although he acknowledges that  the article is quality student journalism, he says it is not appropriate for ninth grade readers, even though one of the sources began using the drug as a freshman. According to Burton, young students should not be permitted to read the information without adult guidance to tell them what it means. In his letter stating the reasons for the censorship, Burton said, “Unlike a drug safety unit taught in a health class by a trained professional, this article does not come with that trained instructor. If this article was to be published, children would be exposed to a new and dangerous drug without adult guidance.” The only problem with this position is that students are not taught drug safety units in high school. The administration has known about dabbing for months, but has not provided information to the school community.

By censoring the article, the administration’s position seems to be that educating young people about a topic that is controversial and dangerous means that they will go out and do it. Topics like teen pregnancy, drunk driving, suicide, and drugs should not be discussed, at least not by students in a student newspaper. The voices of high school students on these topics must be silent, and the only messages that are sanctioned are those of the administration. That way, controversy will not happen, and it will not exist. In reality, most of the student body, including freshmen, knows that dabbing exists. For those who don’t, is it better for them to learn about dabbing through a friend or a peer, or through a researched, comprehensive article?

Prior review takes the student out of a student publication and makes it a publication by the administration. A student journalist’s job is to report on the activities of students in their school, and that is what the article does. The School Board’s publications policy requires student material to be fair and balanced, well-written, grammatically correct, and suitable for audience for which it is intended. Some controversial topics may be uncomfortable for adults, who do not like to admit that some high school students may be involved in drug use or other controversial behavior. However, we contend that not saying anything is more harmful than saying the truth. Just because a topic may be uncomfortable for the administration does not mean that it is unsuitable for a high school audience. Or that students are incapable of understanding it.

Although the publications policy requires students to notify the principal of potentially controversial stories, this does not mean that student First Amendment rights do not exist; nor does it mean there should be prior review. Most importantly, it does not mean that censorship is okay. Essentially, the new editors of The Falconer are the administration, and the voice of the student body is severely compromised.

Because of censorship, being a part of the student newspaper is no longer a way to learn about real journalism and write real stories about real issues. If The Falconer does put in the hours to write stories that matter to the lives of students, the administration can kill them with the stroke of a censor’s pen. The administration-approved stories may have our names, but not student voices. The principal could support us, he could trust us, and he could be an advocate for the student voice.

The Falconer encourages opinions from the student body and the community about this issue.


ALS ice bucket challenge promotes tentative awareness

The ALS ice bucket challenge has been sweeping the nation for over a month. The idea is to dump a bucket of freezing ice water over one’s head and then nominate or challenge friends, family, or co-workers to do the same. After the new group is nominated, they have 24 hours to either complete the challenge or donate $100 to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association.

The trend started when golfer Charles Kennedy, whose cousin suffers from ALS, completed the challenge and decided the money raised should go towards fighting ALS. The challenge spread by social media before it came to former Boston College baseball star Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 27 in March, 2012. Frates called out multiple celebrities, including Tom Brady, and other Boston athletes. The challenge then went viral. LeBron James, Kevin Hart, and Tom Cruise all participated and chipped in. The fad swept the nation on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Vine. But that’s exactly what it is, a fad. And that’s the problem.

Kony 2012

The video Kony 2012, produced by Invisible Children, was released in March, 2012. War criminal Joseph Kony became infamous due to his abduction of children to become sex slaves and soldiers. The video received nearly 100 million views and over one million “likes” on YouTube. But as the views began to rise, the focus started to shift from Kony to Invisible Children, especially after Invisible Children co-founder, Jason Russell, was seen naked outside his home in San Diego, California, spewing f-bombs and raging about the iPhone. By April, 2012, the movement to capture Kony had waned significantly. Invisible Children attempted to mend critics’ hearts by releasing a second video with a clearer objective, but the damage was done. The momentum that Invisible Children once had disappeared, while Kony still roams in Uganda with the Lord’s Resistance Army and tens of thousands of captured children.

Bring Back Our Girls

On April 15, 2014, a convoy of terrorists rolled into a small town in northern Nigeria and abducted nearly 300 high school girls age 15 to 18. The terrorist group, Boko Haram, opposes western education, as well as the education of women, and abducted the girls as punishment. People began to use the phrase “Bring Back Our Girls” on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Even the first lady Michelle Obama participated by posting a famous picture with the phrase written on a piece of paper. The United States sent troops to Nigeria and used surveillance planes to look for the women. But after a few short weeks, the powerful phrase fell out of use. What seemed like great activism turned to apathy. The world became indifferent and over 200 women are still missing.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ice bucket challenge is the current trend that narcissistic social media participants are using for likes, favorites, and retweets. The majority of participants aren’t even aware of what ALS is, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The disease affects cells of the brain and spin, slowly decreasing a patient’s ability to use his or her muscles. Soon after diagnosis, the patient has trouble walking, and as the atrophy progresses, victims begin having trouble speaking or eating. The disease is not curable, and respiratory failure eventually occurs. While it lasts, the Ice Bucket Challenge is undoubtedly a great thing for ALS. It’s clean, it’s fun, and it has raised awareness significantly. The donations have grown to over 15 million. Just like previous trends, however, the participants are often slacktivists who complete their “obligations” to receive a feel-good experience about this social cause without actually making much difference. The ice bucket challenge will fade, but the serious illness that is ALS will remain.

~Gavin Cranford, co-editor-in-chief

Mental illness is no laughing matter

The suicide of beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams caused an outpouring of grief and shock. The immediate reaction to William’s decision to take his own life was to ask the question, why? Robin Williams generated positive energy; he spent his life spreading joy to others. He embodied a warmth and spirit that few people possess. He was talented and successful. He had a family and financial security. So, why?

Robin Williams had been public for years about his struggle with substance abuse and bipolar disorder, a disease that affects approximately 5.7 million Americans and causes a series of severe mood changes and often depression.

Reactions to William’s death highlight the misconceptions and stigmas associated with depression, suicide, and mental health. People are afraid to talk about mental illness, yet it affects many Americans. According to the Huffington Post there were approximately 40,000 suicides in the United States in 2011, making it the 10th leading cause of death, above car accidents. Approximately 1 million people attempt suicide each year. Mental illness is a brain disease, as real as cancer, or any other deadly disease. According to government statistics from 2010, 60 percent of Americans with mental illness did not seek treatment because they couldn’t pay for it, they thought they would be fine, or they didn’t want others to find out about it.

Despite the misconceptions that still exist, there has been progression in the understanding of mental illness. Those with mental illness are no longer treated like freaks, blamed for their condition, or hidden away in institutions. There is a greater understanding of the tie between mental illness and addiction.
We will never know what was going on in the mind of Robin Williams, and we will never know exactly what made him act on the decision to end his life. If anything good will come from his death, it is the increase in mental health awareness. With the news of his death, social networking flooded with tributes and calls for greater awareness of mental illness. Typically 90,000 people a day visit the Facebook page of The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); the day after William’s death, the website had 1.1 million visitors. Direct messages, blogs, and tumblers exploded with people searching for and offering help for mental illness.

What is important is keeping this awareness alive. His suicide affected people around the world. Robin Williams spent his life spreading joy when he had none. If such a beautiful, joyous and selfless man could be so strongly affected by this illness, how many others also suffer in silence?

~SaraRose Martin, co-editor-in-chief

High school seen from a different perspective

I felt a bit like Lindsay Lohan’s character from Mean Girls on my first day at FHS. I came to Fauquier my junior year, three weeks after moving to Warrenton from the exotic land of San Francisco. I had been homeschooled all my life; walking into hallways filled with over 1,200 kids with backpacks, hustling to class, was rather intimidating. I also am legally blind. While I can see, my vision is very limited, and as I walked into school I got lost somewhere in the bowels of the annex until somebody told me how to get to my homeroom.
Homeschooling had worked well for me. There was no chalkboard I had to see because my classes were online. It didn’t matter that I took twice as long to read as other people because deadlines were more flexible. I also have a severe case of ADD that makes getting schoolwork done a challenge. I have spent entire days trying to complete one assignment and barely getting anything done because my mind refuses to tune in on the task. Though it was frustrating, I was able to work with it because, again, deadlines were more flexible.
When I moved to Warrenton, however, I wanted to get plugged in with a new community right away, so I decided to go to FHS. The school made a lot of accommodations for me, and I harbor much gratitude to the staff of FCPS for making everything work for me. One way the school helped me was to get me an iPad. This has allowed me to take pictures of the board and zoom in the photo to see what the teacher is writing. It allows me to get powerpoints, worksheets, books, and textbooks on my device where I can make the text in a font size I can see. I do most of my homework on my iPad and turn it in through Dropbox. Without this technology, school would be 10 times more difficult. Thanks Apple.
The public school system also provides amazing services because of my disability. The vision specialist for the county, Bethany Martin, has helped me be successful with a visual impairment in other aspects of my life, like learning how to cross streets, though I can’t see the walk sign, how to navigate stores and office buildings, and how to overcome many other obstacles that arise. She also put me in touch with a girl from Kettle Run who has the same eye condition as I do. This was the first time I had ever met someone my age with vision like mine. I am proud that the school system provides these kinds of services.
There were still some complications. In the cafeteria I can’t see where anybody is, so once I get my food, I have no idea where to sit. But eventually I found a good place. Many people say hi to me in the hallway, and I have no idea who they are because I can’t see their face. I just say hi back because it takes too much time to ask who it is every time. Occasionally I have made embarrassing mistakes such as sitting in someone else’s seat in class without realizing it, running into people, or calling people another name because I think they are somebody else. I used to get embarrassed, but I’ve learned that nobody really cares. I can just laugh it off now.
My ADD has not been as great an issue as I expected. The school gives me extended time to work on homework, projects, and tests because of my vision. I have taken advantage of this extra time because of my ADD, even more than because of my vision. I’ve also found that learning in a classroom is a more productive learning environment than doing schoolwork in my bedroom by myself. In the classroom there are people to keep me engaged, whereas in my bedroom there is nothing to stop my mind from wandering.
My favorite experience at FHS has been writing for The Falconer. Though it was work, it got me involved in a fun community right away that I certainly wouldn’t have experienced otherwise, especially because I can’t play sports. During third block every day, I met all kinds of cool people when I went on interviews, and some of my favorite memories at FHS were staying hours after school to work on the newspaper.
One of the lessons I have learned since being at FHS is not to judge people. I was disappointed at how people constantly gossiped about other people behind their backs, and I hate the labels people use for other people, such as ratchet, basic, and especially the term patio kid. Coming from the urban, hipster culture in San Francisco to suburban Virginia, I realized that I was judgmental, as well. I would judge people for reasons as foolish as their taste in music or the way they dress. There were many people that I judged at first, but when I heard about their home life or background, it completely explained why they act the way they do. I learned that the people who aren’t the popular kids are often the ones that will be the best friends. Once I accepted and enjoyed people for who they are, and I stopped caring as much about other people’s perceptions of me, I enjoyed high school a lot more.
My high school experience has been very unconventional, but overall, it was definitely a good choice to come here. I met some amazing people, learned a lot about life, and I feel much more prepared for the future. I want to thank God who organized every detail of my high school career and who got me through the hard times and the good times. I want to thank my mom who put in countless hours to teach me until I came to FHS. I want to thank my teachers for working with me and making other accommodations for me, and I want to thank the students of FHS for your friendships and support. I could not have made it without you.

~Jake Lunsford, staff reporter


EDITORIAL: New school year has fair share of hits, some misses

BYOD: Allowing for cell phones during school hours and encouraging educational use of devices is key to effective 21st century learning.
Taco Bell construction begins: After months of delays, the chain broke ground on their new structure in late August.
Natural light in classrooms: The wide windows and skylights provide for a more earth-friendly and open learning environment.
Football’s new jerseys: The varsity squad’s new game-day apparel makes the team look as fresh as they play.
A+ Days: An extra 40 minutes in the middle of the week is a lifesaver for busy students.
Connecting the 500 and 700 hallway: Student athletes and science students appreciate the new gateway between the wings.

No middle railing: The new building’s traffic flow would be more easily controlled, and students would not be as vulnerable to injury.
Covered walkway eliminated from construction plans: A covered walkway from the annex to the main building would be useful on rainy and snowy days.
Straight parking spaces: Teenagers are inexperienced drivers, and eliminating the slanted spaces results in crooked parking.
No paper towels in the bathroom: While the hand dryers are eco-friendly, they also require more time. With only six minutes to get to class, we’d prefer paper towels. They also come in handy for spills.

PRO/CON: Should college athletes be paid?

College athletes deserve portion of profits they bring in

Most professional athletes make more money than the President; however, college athletes do not receive any (legal) forms of cold hard cash. The life of college athletes is completely unfair. They are scrutinized by the media and make news headlines. However, they will not receive any form of compensation for their play unless they make it into a professional sport.

For most college athletes, the sport consumes their time. In 2008, USA TODAY surveyed college athletes and found that two-thirds considered themselves athletes, not students. Division I football players claimed that they spend over 40 hours a week practicing or playing their sport, and less than 40 hours on academics. With such time commitments, sports and school, it is unreasonable to expect an athlete to have a job.

Playing a college sport doesn’t make money for the athletes, but it does make the colleges money. Every week these athletes show their stuff on national TV and the NCAA rakes in the dough. The NCAA reported that their projected revenue for 2012-2013 was $792 million. In 2008, Virginia Tech made $64 million off of college football alone. So since the NCAA makes that much money, why can’t they pay the people generating said revenue?

Many college athletes put their health at risk on a daily basis. Common injuries include concussions, torn muscles, and broken bones. Concussions leading to brain damage, not to mention painful migraines, are a major issue in many sports. The typical athlete in a contact sport has a 19 percent chance of getting a concussion each season according, to the University of Pittsburgh. The NFL reached a $765 million settlement this year with retired football players who sustained head injuries during their careers.

Concussions don’t just begin in the pros, and the side effects can linger well after an athlete’s college/pro career ends. It costs serious money to pay for the medical treatment of head-related injuries, money that many athletes will not make if they don’t make it to the professional level.

Many college athletes are glamorized by major media sources. They have become icons not only to high school and other amateur athletes, but also to the fans that watch them play. Their images are marketed and sold in the form of merchandise, like professional athletes. Major controversies have arisen over college athletes illegally profiting off merchandise. In 2011, five Ohio State players, were suspended for five games after they had sold some of their college merchandise to pay for such things as tattoos. None of this would have been a problem if these young and high-profile athletes were making a salary for their playing time.

As the main part of a multi-million dollar enterprise, college athletes need to get paid. Simply put, college athletes are exposed to too many risks to not share in the profits other organizations make from them. It is not fair, and it needs to change.

~Josh Henry, copy production editor

Paying players would end college sports, except most lucrative programs

The NCAA develops the rules, establishes postseason formats, and regulate just about every aspect of college sports. One of the most controversial regulations prevents college athletes from being paid. Many argue that the NCAA is swindling the athletes, using them to make millions of dollars while the athletes don’t get a penny of the profits. Last year alone, the NCAA made $871.6 million in revenue.

However, the people forget that the athletes are getting a free college education, something that only 0.3 percent of students at four-year institutions get, and they receive other advantages, such as expert coaching that could lead to a career in their respective sports. The athletes also get free access to some of the most high-tech training facilities in the world, including weight rooms and swimming pools that others have to pay expensive memberships fees to access.

Another common misconception is that the universities and colleges make bank off of college sports, specifically football. That is only true for a handful of schools, such as Notre Dame and University of Texas. Most schools can only pay what it takes to run the programs, and in some cases the schools lose money. In fact, a report by Dan Fulks of Transylvania University found that 106 of the 120 FBS (Division 1-A) either made no money or lost money in 2009.

Additionally, the 97 schools that do not have a football program in Division 1-A reported an estimated average loss of $3 million. Paying the athletes would put the schools even farther into the red, possibly even forcing schools to cut some sports. It is unfair to expect colleges to give these athletes a free education and then pay them money to play for them. The NCAA could not afford to pay the nearly 450,000 student athletes; they had to pay $800 million in expenses.

The entire culture of college football would be changed if the athletes were paid. College football is completely different from NFL football, and that’s a good thing. There is something special about the atmosphere of a college football game. The athletes still take pride in playing for their school. You don’t see the star player of the team that wins the national championship transfer schools after the season, but players leave a Super Bowl winning NFL team all the time, usually for a bigger paycheck. If you pay the players, then why even have the colleges sponsor the sports? Why not start a semipro league instead? If college athletes were to be paid, it would take away that sense of school pride. The college game would become nothing but a business, just like the NFL.

~Brady Burr, staff reporter


More ‘Faults’ than ‘Stars’

John Green’s 2012 novel, The Fault in our Stars, has been described by critics as edgy, genius, and luminous. Teenagers who were touched to tears by Green’s storytelling – and he does use lovely storytelling – hold the book on a pedestal. But that’s really all this book is: a shallow collection of pretty words.

The Fault in our Stars spins the tale of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old cancer patient who, after attending a support group meeting, meets Augustus Waters. Shenanigans ensue. The characters are really where the first problem falls – they’re just so terribly dislikable. Within the first few pages, Hazel proves to be an insufferable narrator. They just don’t sound like teenagers – they sound like John Green. Expect copious amounts of witty remarks, rants of malcontent, and non-sequitur metaphors in every chapter. For example, Augustus buys cigarettes but refuses to light them to show that the companies don’t control him.

Another point of annoyance is that this book is so emotionally manipulative. The reader feels like Green is hovering over one’s shoulder, whispering, “Hey, that part? Yeah, it’s sad, right?” Green says that you should cry. He says that Hazel and Augustus are in love. It’s hard to see this as anything but a thinly-veiled attempt at a tearjerker novel.

Previous readers of John Green have surely noticed a formula in his stories: awkward teenager meets manic pixie dream girl (or in this case, boy) who impresses with disaffected, smarter-than-thou speeches and who promises adventure. Compare The Fault in our Stars with his other novels, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns. Green could have switched around the names of all his characters and it wouldn’t make a difference.

If one thing could be said in John Green’s favor, it’s that he’s consistent – consistently pretentious, consistently resurrecting the same boring characters, consistently trying to convince his young adult readers that he’s an intellectual. His books are geared towards teenagers because he realizes that anybody who can discern quality literature would call him out for being a pompous imbecile. The Fault in our Stars only proves to be overhyped.

~Lana Heltzel, staff reporter