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SPJ condemns Wentzville prior review, censorship

Posted by on Mar 28, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

The Society of Professional Journalists this week termed disruptive the Wentzville Board of Education’s use of prior review, censorship and the resulting resignation of a trained adviser.

The letter urged administrators to end prior review of student media.

The comments were part of a letter from SPJ dated March 25 and addressed to board members and administrators. Information about the letter was posted by the SPLC on its blog.

The letter referred to prior review and censorship resulting from articles and photos about tattoos and other newspaper and yearbook content.

“Continuing these restrictions will only cause further damage to a once well-respected student publication,” wrote SPJ President Kevin Smith, “and it will send the message to students that governmental control of the news media is valued over a free press.”

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Wentzville BOE meeting update

Posted by on Mar 18, 2010 in News | 0 comments

Bedecked in their green Team McCandless shirts, a group of 50 or students, parents and family members gathered at the monthly meeting of the Wentzville Board of Education, hoping to have their voices heard over the censorship of the newspaper and yearbook at Timberland High School.

Those green shirts failed to bring any luck to Team McCandless supporters, as four supporters of Principal Winston Rogers were allowed to speak before the public comments portion of the evening was brought to a close. As the disgruntled group filed out, several remarks were shouted back toward the boardroom and the group gathered outside the boardroom. Eventually, the group was allowed one person to speak.

The assembled group chose Nikki McGee, the editor-in-chief of the Wolf’s Howl. McGee spoke eloquently of her experiences in Cathy McCandless’ room and of the effects McCandless’ teaching has had on her over the course of four years. After that, the group headed back out and began to disperse.

Members of the St. Louis media were there, with KSDK and KMOV both sending reporters. A reporter from the Post-Dispatch was there as well. None of those media had posted anything online as of this writing.

The general atmosphere of those assembled was one of anger and disgruntlement. Those assembled were hopeful that they were going to be given a chance to speak and when it became apparent they were not, that anger rose. Several parents spoke of the censorship at THS being extended to the board meeting. Several vowed to be back for next month’s board meeting as well.

What I took away from this is a couple of things. First, that it’s good these students have stood up for themselves. Would that there were more students around the country like this, we’d hopefully have a lot less of a problem with censorship. Two, that it’s going to take a lot to overcome administrators in situations like this. It’s not enough to be in the right side of the argument. When we’re fighting against this, it takes time and hard work and persistence and passion and dedication.

I’ll be posting some photos one of my students took at the board meeting this evening to my Facebook account sometime tomorrow and provide some final thoughts.

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Timber!

Posted by on Dec 18, 2009 in Blog, News | 0 comments

Building off of John’s previous post, tattoos continue to be the scourge of Wentzville, Mo.

Yesterday, after receiving approval from principal and The Wolf’s Howl had been distributed during fifth hour, administrators of the Wentzville School District pulled the paper from circulation.

The offending item this time was again, a tattoo. On a spread about cancer – sorry for the lack of details – there was evidently a photo of a cancer patient who had a small tattoo.The horror … the horror.

It appears that the administrators in Wentzville are attempting to give their counterparts at Stevenson High School a run for their money in the most ridiculous reason to censor a paper contest.

These two schools continue to distinguish themselves in ways that are unfortunately getting a lot of recognition. Stevenson, as it was pointed out by JEA president Jack Kennedy in a letter to the Stevenson administrators, is a nationally recognized model school. Unfortunately in these cases, Stevenson is becoming the model of what not to do when it comes to supporting students, the First Amendment or the educational process. Let’s hope that other administrators and school districts are not paying attention to what these districts are doing, because it could be the start of a very small snowball that is rolling down the hill … its momentum needs to be stopped before this becomes a much bigger problem.

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Scary days are becoming weeks and months

Posted by on Nov 6, 2009 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

The principal of Timberland High School in Wentzville, Missouri, recently censored student articles on tattoos. Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted an article about the censorship.  Quickly, reader comments mounted.

The principal indicated he thought everyone could grow from this.

We’re not sure what he has in mind as growth, but we’re certain school officials or some of those who commented have not mastered understanding citizen roles in a democracy. Or understanding how students learn.

Which creates another scary day in scholastic journalism.

The principal also said he “is responsible for judging content based on what’s appropriate for students in the school and whether it supports the mission of the school.”

School missions, though, usually have verbiage about building better citizens and encouraging civic involvement. And that is appropriate.

Sadly, by censoring, school officials do not accomplish the most crucial mission they say is important.

Read the Post-Dispatch article. Read the student article linked from it. Read the comments.

Then think about school missions again.

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