March: The Month of Tinker and Hazelwood

This shaping up to be a weird month for freedom of speech in public schools. First there’s the whole “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case being argued in front of the Supreme Court. Then there’s the Wilton High thing. And now, finally, via Fark, here’s another one. Apparently a school in Indiana has suspended a teacher for running pro-gay rights op-ed by a student in the school newspaper.

Unfortunately, it appears that the principal is in the legal clear, since the paper is funded by the school. Funding the paper means that the administration can more or less censor whatever the hell they want in it. My experience from talking to other student journalists across the country is that there are a lot of papers like that. If you’re lucky, though, a good administration will fund the paper and still manage to restrain themselves from censorship at this level of absurdity.

That’s pretty rare, though, and I’d still rather not leave it up to the administration. This is why I advocate that, whenever possible, school newspapers strive to be self-funded. And the school, whose purpose is to educate, would do well to help that happen. Why? Because of shit like this:

Three of the seven members of the newspaper staff resigned, including the editor. Carpenter, who now questions her plans for a career in journalism, said she’s disappointed that the school district is quieting students and leaving a teacher in doubt about her future.

It’s nice to see the editor, and two of his writers, show some backbone over this, but it’s still somewhat heartbreaking that this whole incident has caused one of the students involved to question journalism as a career. A high school exists to educate. What exactly are they teaching their students here?

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