In the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer photograph to the right, Stephanie Moreno, center, is handing out what may be the last uncensored copies of the Holly Springs High School paper, The Hawkeye.
According to a Nov. 15 news story in the Raleigh daily, the school's principal, Luther Johnson, plans to start reviewing the paper before it goes to press to make sure it is "factual and reflects our school ... in a relatively positive light."
The young journalists who turn out the paper aren't stupid. They know what he means -- and they don't like it.
"I don't want to turn it into fluff," Kathryn Watson, 15, a sophomore and editor in chief of The Hawkeye told the Raleigh newspaper.
According the News & Observer story, which is particularly well done, "Students at Holly Springs High were glad administrators didn't review their first two editions. In those issues, The Hawkeye told about construction delays, gas leaks and water leaks since the school opened in August. Other stories and editorial cartoons focused on rules typically found in elementary schools, such as how to walk and which side of the stairs to use."
Jennifer Hall-Lewis, adviser for The Hawkeye, told the newspaper that other teachers have joked to her about when she will be fired.
Hall-Lewis said, according to the Raleigh paper, "parents have praised the newspaper for providing a balanced view of the school. But Johnson, the school's principal, said parents and teachers have complained that the newspaper isn't portraying the school in a positive enough light."
The News & Observer said that Johnson is meeting with Hall-Lewis next week to discuss the student newspaper and says he hasn't made up his mind, though the six other Wake County principals he asked for advice all told him they already censor their students' papers.
It doesn't look promising.
But perhaps Johnson will see the light.
The Raleigh paper talked to Steven Unruhe, adviser to The Pirate's Hook at Riverside High School in Durham, who said censorship typically makes newspapers so boring that students don't want to read them.
Unruhe told the News & Observer that in his 16 years at Riverside High, he's never had a principal yank a story.
As a result, he told the paper, The Pirate's Hook covers topics such as profanity, public displays of affection and other R-rated behavior at school.
"If you want to know what kids think, you've got to let them write about it," Unruhe told the News & Observer, proving he's one of the great student paper advisors.
Riverside High Principal James Key told the News & Observer that he isn't always thrilled with what he reads in The Pirate's Hook. But, he told the paper, he weighs the controversial topics, including criticism of himself, against all the good he says the newspaper does for the school.
"I'm not going to squelch an article simply because it looks unfavorably upon the school," Key told the Raleigh newspaper. "It may help bring to light something that's not widely known by administrators."
If only there were more principals who think like Key and fewer who hold students and parents in such contempt that they would rather hide the truth than face it.
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Labels: censorship, high school, journalism, teen journalism