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The camel’s back has broken

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Okay, I think I’ve reached it.

My Howard Beale-I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-going-to-take-it-any-more moment. It’s here and I’m ready to go to the television camera and start yelling for action.

The point where everything adds up and I’m not willing to put up with the status quo any more when it comes to student publications being unjustifiably censored by administrators around the country.

In just the past couple of months, there have been numerous stories from numerous states – Missouri, Nebraska, Georgia, California – where administrators have run roughly over the rights of the student press, showing little regard for state educational codes and Supreme Court decisions and even less for dedicated student journalists and advisers. Look at one not-so-little occurrence in my backyard, In Wentzville, Mo. Look at the pages (http://tinyurl.com/yg9wlh4) and decide for yourself.

There’s something ironic about the fact that a story on inking (tattoos) was what stopped the Wolf’s Howl from being printed on newsprint … wait for it … with ink.

The stories weren’t, in any way, inflammatory. Informative, but not inflammatory. They even warned of the perils and pitfalls of getting a tattoo at the principal’s initial suggestion.

One of the co-editors of the paper is a nominee for Story of the Year from NSPA, who has been interviewed by the SPLC and Suburban Journals and defended her paper and its actions admirably. These are students who know what they are doing.

The adviser, Cathy McCandless, was nominated for the Missouri Interscholastic Press Association’s Teacher of the Year award last year. She is active in MIPA, Scholastic School Publications of St. Louis (SSP) and helped plan the national convention in St. Louis last year.

These are bright, dedicated, passionate people who produce top-notch student journalism. And they’re being censored for stories that are well done and relevant to the students at their school, for reasons that barely pass the laugh test when they are spoken aloud.

So what I’m asking you to do now, if you’re reading this blog, is to take action.

First, follow the links John Bowen has linked to in previous posts. Then read them. And then, get upset. Finally, take some action.

Comment below. Teach your students, your coworkers, your administrators, why this is wrong.

Contact those of us who write for this blog. Or who are members of JEA. Or NSPA. Or CSPA. Talk to fellow teachers who are members of your state or regional journalism teacher associations. Contact your union reps, board of education, city council, local representative or someone even higher up. Ask them to work with you to make it impossible for administrators to censor the student press.

But let’s get these people, these people who have influence or a platform or power to use what they possess. Let’s get them to realize that when censorship takes place, there is no one who is bettered by it. Let’s get these people to start working in their district or county or region or state to start contacting their representatives and standing up for the rights of student journalists and advisers.

Only seven states have anti-Hazelwood laws. Seven. Let’s start the fight now to make it eight. Or ten. Or fifty.

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