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Students forced to publish censored paper

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Turkeys in the news tomorrow may not be just on people’s plates.

Lately, some have been dressed as administrators at Stevenson High in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

First, school officials’ objections held up the paper’s initial release. Then they forced journalism students to remove  several stories and several pages from the latest issue.

Next, administrators demanded the issue run despite student objections. According to information in the Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune, administrators wouldn’t allow students to remove their bylines from the stories and threatened to fail the student journalists if they did not do as told.

Prior review, administrators said last year when a previous dispute occurred, would only last a short time.

They were right about one thing. Review is now prior restraint of the least educationally defensible kind.

Executive director of the Student Press Law center, Frank LoMonte, called administrative actions a confession that they had lied.

Stevenson’s conduct today is a confession that its administrators lied when they claimed in a press release last week that they had problems with only one story in the Statesman,” he said. “We trust that the school board will immediately investigate the source of this intentionally false public statement and will remove any employee who played a role in distributing it.

LoMonte also praised student editors.

“Student editors have dealt with Stevenson in an honest, professional and restrained manner, attempting to work out a peaceful resolution. Their reward for it was a sucker-punch in the gut. To threaten the highest-achieving students in the school with flunking journalism, potentially endangering their college careers, simply confirms that Stevenson puts its image ahead of the well-being of its students. When a school tries this hard to silence student journalism, the public should start asking hard questions about what is going on at Stevenson High School that its administrators are so desperate to conceal.”

This Thanksgiving the communities that send their students to Stevenson definitely may want to be thinking of ways to deal with these leftover turkeys.

For related reporting and coverage, go here, here, here and here.

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