The principal of a Colorado high school has shut down the student newspaper -- for truthfully reporting on the death of a classmate. Telling students that their story was "too big for a high school paper," he yanked the students' faculty advisor from her position, changed their journalism class to a non-publishing class and shut down the paper.
Censoring student journalists in Colorado isn't just wrong. It's illegal. Colorado student journalists and their journalism advisors are protected by a state law that says they have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press.
But Principal Leon Lundie of Overland High School in Aurora, Colo., blatantly disregarded the law in an attempt to silence a story the students reported about a fellow student who died as a result of an injury during a wrestling tournament. Even though the students backed up the story with interviews and research - and even provided Lundie with the student's death certificate - he reportedly told them that the story "lacked balance."
When the students said they'd go ahead with the story, Lundie told them it would be the last issue they'd publish, hauled their advisor into a meeting and fired her, and said through a spokesperson that the newspaper was shutting down due to "budget concerns" - a rationale refuted by the students themselves, who say they're not over budget. The ACLU and the Student Press Law Center are speaking up for these students - let's add our voices as well.
Can you help make this right? Taking a stand will send a message to Overland High -- and other schools watching this story -- that we care about freedom of speech in American high schools. Speak up for the young journalists of The Overland Scout and their advisor, Laura Sudik, and tell Overland High School's principal: Don't shut down a student paper for telling the truth!
Photo credit: Guerreto via Flickr
The recent news that Overland High School Principal Leon Lundie shut down The Overland Scout due to his personal feelings about a story regarding a deceased student is troubling due to Lundie's lack of respect for students' work or their rights as young journalists. The act of shuttering the paper and displacing the adviser is not just wrong, it is illegal. Colorado's Student Free Expression Law (full text: http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/law_library.asp?id=7) clearly articulates that Colorado students have the right to publish the news, free from censorship, and their advisers cannot be punished for encouraging them to speak the truth.
I look forward to the speedy resolution of this issue.