Censoring student journalists is a crime in Colorado, but the principal of a Colorado high school threatened to shut down the student newspaper -- for truthfully reporting on the death of a classmate.
Telling Overland High School students that their story was "too big for a high school paper," Principal Leon Lundie in Aurora, CO yanked the students' faculty advisor from her position, changed their journalism class to a non-publishing class and shut down the paper.
After students worked with the Student Press Law Center, the ACLU and the Colorado High School Press Association, Principal Lundie backed down, promised that the newspaper would continue to publish and told the Denver Post the controversy was due to miscommunication. More than 4,000 Change.org members - many from Colorado - added their support to this campaign.
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