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Students support peers across the country in censorship case

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Part four of a series – Making a Difference

In celebration of the anniversary of the February 25, 1969, United States Supreme Court Tinker vs. Des Moines, the JEA SPRC Making a Difference project salutes the The Foothill Dragon Press at Foothill Technology High School in Ventura (Calif.) for their support of fellow student journalists across country at the Playwickian, at Neshaminy High School (Pa.).

When student journalists at The Foothill Dragon Press learned that their peers were being censored, they posted this editorial on their website, entitled When one student is threatened, we are all threatened.

Their adviser, Melissa Wantz wrote “When the Neshaminy School Board in Langhorne, Pa., decided to rewrite district policy to prevent student editors at Neshaminy High School from prohibiting the word “Redskin” — a term the newspaper voted to ban from its pages — my students decided to use their editorial power to denounce the school board and to support the Playwickian newspaper staff. The day after the editorial was published online at www.foothilldragonpress.org, it was quoted or linked on social media, email and in an article published by the Student Press Law Center.

After researching and writing this editorial over a weekend, The Foothill Dragon Press journalists suddenly understood what it might feel like to lose their freedom and how they have to be prepared to fight for the First Amendment. The staff of the Playwickian expressed gratitude for The Foothill Dragon Press support by using their free speech rights to publicly comment beneath the online editorial.”

In September, the Playwickian staff had funds removed from their publishing account and one of their editors, Gillian McGoldrick, was suspended from her editorial position for a month. The adviser, Tara Huber was also suspended for three days without pay, because she did not censor her students for their practice of banning the term “Redskin” in their newspaper.

Once again the Foothills Dragon staff rose to the challenge and started an independent, national fundraiser to help pay for the publishing funds removed and the three days of pay the teacher lost as a result of the administrative discipline. That fundraiser surpassed the $2,400 in two days and reached a total of $6,810 to support their peers.

Like Mary Beth Tinker and John Tinker, these student journalists in Ventura, Calif., have made a national difference along with their peers in Langhorne, Pa. via scholastic journalism.

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