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Stevenson board claims Statesman not a public forum; the censorship beat continues

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According to Lincolnshire, Il, Board of Education president Bruce Lubin at a board of education meeting Dec. 17, the Statesman, a focal point of censorship issues over the last two years, is not a public forum but rather “an educational and curriculum endeavor.”

The whole statement can be found at Stevenson High’s Web site.

The board clams “informal” review has taken place for years in the statement. The statement also cited Hazelwood as rationale for the board to “impose restrictions on a newspaper of this type, provided that their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”

Stevenson officials today censored another story, this one on student use of prescription drugs and using named sources. The school cited its responsibility not to publish private student information even though the student had given reporters permission to use the name.

Still, the board’s statement sees only positives over the controversy.

“The current questions surrounding the Statesman have had at least one positive result,” the board statement continued. “While Stevenson has had an informal practice of pre-publication prior review for the Statesman for years, recent events have enabled the administration, faculty, and student journalists to have conversations that have provided more focus and are leading to the development of more specific procedures and practices for providing feedback and suggestions to our journalism students. Within the next month, our administration, journalism teachers, and students will be working collaboratively to draft clear procedures and guidelines to improve communication and provide our students with clear expectations for their work in the journalism program.”

Student editors have repeatedly said said they are being forced away from responsible journalism and learning.

According to the Chicago BreakingNewsCenter, editor Pam Selman said at last night’s meeting, “The worst part about it all is that (the censorship) is not just unlawful — it’s bad teaching and bad journalism. The fact that we are students does not deprive us of our rights as journalists working on a limited public forum to be free from unreasonable restraint.”

The board now argues the Statesman is not a public forum.

At any rate, the board’s statement continues the puzzle that is Stevenson High. The board reiterates its belief it is an exemplary learning community. Journalism students, meanwhile, only learn more about restraint and review even though their course description presents the following:

Journalism: Newspaper Production (Accelerated )

ENG951-Semester 1, ENG952-Semester 2

Open to 10-11-12 Full Year

Prerequisite: Journalistic Writing

Students do all the work necessary to produce the school newspaper, the Statesman. Staff positions include managing editors, copy editor, design editor, advertising manager, photo manager, page editors (news, opinions, sports, in-depth and feature), reporter and photographer. Staff members gather news, research and write copy, and help complete pages. Students who hope to be photographers are encouraged to take a photography course through the Art Department. Because this is a student publication, all responsibilities, from the planning of the content to the design of an issue to the processing of photos and the completion of pages, are handled by students. Afterschool work is necessary to the completion of each issue. This course may be taken more than once for credit. While students are welcome to enroll if they meet the prerequisite, they must complete the interview and application process in the spring to be considered for admission.

Collaboration, so far, seems very one-sided and directive.

And, as seen in this college editor’s column, Stevenson is not the only school changing the playing field. Additionally, censorship continues at Timberland High in Wentzville, Missouri.

For additional stories, see the Chicago BreakingNewsCenter story. Read the Daily Herald story.

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