Tuesday, November 25, 2003

'R' movies in school club

Exchange project shut down after officials' review

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON TWP. - Little Miami High School's main atrium features three giant display cases: one featuring the Warren County school's many academic awards, another a science project on butterflies, and the third showcasing dozens of DVDs, including R-rated movies that contain sex scenes and graphic violence.

map Little Miami students have been able see such R-rated, adult-themed movies as Monster's Ball, Birthday Girl and American Pie 2 - Unrated through a DVD exchange club, a school business project supervised by a teacher with the approval of the principal.

But after the Enquirer asked about the movies Monday, school district officials investigated and halted the club's movie offerings.

R-rated movies, under the national Motion Picture Association (MPA) rating system, are listed as "restricted" from anyone under 17 years old, without an "accompanying parent or adult guardian."

Monster's Ball, which stars Halle Berry, has scenes that warrant a warning of "strong sexual content, language and violence" according to the MPA ratings. The Birthday Girl DVD cover states that star Nicole Kidman "brings erotic heat to her role" in scenes that include depiction of sadomasochistic sex, and About Last Night stars Rob Lowe and features multiple sex scenes. The movie selection also includes graphically violent movies such as Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.

"I'm surprised and I'm shocked," Little Miami Board of Education President Nona Cress said Monday. "I was not aware of this."

Neither teacher Tom Brinkman, who is listed in the DVD club's literature as the supervisor for the school business project, nor Little Miami Principal John Spieser returned requests for comment.

When told about the DVD club on Monday, Little Miami Superintendent Daniel Bennett said he was unaware of the nature of the movies made available to students. After he subsequently met with high school officials and reviewed the DVD titles and box cover descriptions, Bennett ordered the club shut down indefinitely.

"I certainly don't condone it. There were some inappropriate things in there and we're not in that business," Bennett said. "I take full responsibility."

Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel said her office was unaware of the DVD club but now intends "to look into it" for any possible violations of Ohio's law against disseminating material harmful to juveniles.

Bennett said Little Miami High School officials told him student DVD exchanges were monitored for age appropriateness. However, application forms for the club do not ask for student age or have any provision for obtaining parental consent. Little Miami school parent Tom Gomez said even if the club had age restrictions, R-rated movies have no business in schools. "That is crazy. ... Who came up with that idea and why should those kind of DVDs be available? What's next, X-rated movies?"

Stacy Goode, a Little Miami freshman, said she had not participated in the DVD club and was puzzled about the movies prominently showcased.

"That stuff isn't right for students because of the nudity, sex and violence," said Goode.

Phil Burress, president of the Sharonville-based anti-pornography group Citizens for Community Values (CCV), said "Whoever permitted this needs to attend a common-sense training course.

"Even Hollywood, as decadent as it is, says these movies are inappropriate for children, so why would a school allow this?"

Movie ratings

According to the Motion Picture Association (MPA) movies are rated according to sex, violence, nudity, profanity and other depictions that are deemed inappropriate for certain ages.

The MPA ratings are:

• G - General Audiences. All ages admitted.

• PG - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

• PG-13 - Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

• R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

• NC-17 - No one 17 and under admitted.


E-mail mclark@enquirer.com

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