AHS Censors Student Newspaper

The principal of Albemarle High School yanked an article from the final issue of the school newspaper, Lisa Provence writes for The Hook. The editor of the ironically named Revolution was told that he couldn’t publish their last issue if it included an editorial about the problems with high school level gym class, which happens to be written by the student who will edit the paper next year. The article—which is utterly unobjectionable—raised the ire of the gym teachers, who insisted that they couldn’t teach class if students were to read the article. The paper’s advisor decided to pull the entire issue. Student Press Law Center attorney Adam Goldstein calls the principal’s objection to the article “one of the goofiest I’ve ever seen—it’s not even controversial.”

As a student at Western Albemarle High School, some friends and I published an alternative to the school’s newspaper, The Western Hemisphere, which we called The Eastern Hemisphere. For any AHS students considering doing likewise after this incident, allow me to recommend against it. While fun, it did my academic record no favors.

15 Responses to “AHS Censors Student Newspaper”

  • It seems to me that the only crime was to threaten the relevance of Phys Ed teachers in the current curriculum.

    I imagine every one of them that read the editorial took a figurative dump at the thought of the possible job losses if every student athlete were exempted from Phys Ed classes. Why omg- they might actually be able to eliminate one or two Phys Ed teaching positions!

    And in the current “we don’t have enough money” environment (mainly because they spent a load of money on bigger offices for AHS administrators- a project that took about 1.5 or 2 years to complete) the cut the fat BoS might think it’s a good idea and try to get it implemented.

    Heaven forbid a kid make an intelligent point every now and again.

  • I think people need to learn that this type of approach to a problem will end up getting much more attention than if everyone just stayed in a calm non-censoring mode. Many more people, including parents, will be wondering if this student does not make some fair points when they see Waldo’s story. No offense to the folks who work hard on the AHS paper but most parents never see the school newspaper and will not grab it out of the wastebasket when their students clean out their back back in August-well not until this story came out at least…

  • In my day PE was used to introduce kids to sports that they may take an interest in. We used to play flag football, softball, dodgeball and wrestling in Gym class. We even did rock climbing and archery.If now all they are doing is jogging and playing (ugh!)soccer, I can’t blame them for thinking PE is a waste.

  • As a student who read the > during its publication, allow me to strongly recommend copycats. However it may have hurt Waldo’s academic record, it contributed tremendously to the general welfare–and still to this day, at least as far as I’m concerned. And Waldo’s doing alright, it seems, despite the whole thing.

  • I haven’t been in high school in 38 years but I remember vividly attempts to censor student publications. You can’t teach that the Constitution allows for free speech, while denying same when you (the authorities) don’t like it.

  • With the front page DP article about this incident, it has got the attention of thousands instead of a brief glance by a few hundred students/parents. Also, the DP story exposes the embarrassing attempt to “spin” about why the editorial was rejected.

    Of course the points above about censorship, etc are correct. I think ,though, that the budget cut climate in AC schools has made teachers very insecure and anxious about keeping their jobs which may explain the PE teachers going nuts about a rather low key editorial, which could have been handled by a little humor, if anyone still remembered it in August.

    I remember censorship of student publications when I was a kid too-it just doesn’t work in the internet era and we need to catch up to that reality.

  • Once upon a time,several friends published an alternative student newspaper and distributed it free on school grounds. A column titled “The Administration Speaks” once contained two words only- “bow-wow”. The editor was suspended from school for this grave offense.ACLU got involved somehow. Editor went berry picking for several days. Win-win.

  • Nah, I still think the Eastern Hemisphere was worth doing. Of course, it helped that I had already transferred to Murray by the time the second issue came out. I actually did my share of the writing for that in my journalism class at Murray with great support from the teacher.

  • As douche and ill-advised as yanking the papers may have been, the principal has that right.

    He should know better… but: The courts have repeatedly ruled that school administrators are the defacto publishers of those papers, and just as the publisher in a commercial newspaper has the right to yank a story, so too does the school brass.

  • Do the PE teachers really think that anyone does not actually think the way the writing presents?

  • Let the record show that the Eastern Hemisphere was not the only or first such alternative newspaper at WAHS. In the mid-80s there was the (camp, not-so-much lefty as anti-authoritarian) Hammer & Sickle.

    I hope I have that name right; it’s been 20-plus years. I have some copies in the personal archive. I was one of the editors/writers during its later stages. We inherited the rag from the friends of older siblings. Old copies were stashed in the ceiling of a library office. The founding editors were of the same bunch who executed “Operation Forklift” at Henley Middle School.

  • So we had predecessors! :) I’m glad to hear it. I’ve got copies of Eastern Hemisphere somewhere, too.

    All of this Charlottesville ephemera really needs to be gathered up online somewhere.

  • The AHS administration obviously wants to win a Muzzle Award from the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression really badly!

  • Caryn Elaine Johnson

    We let public school authoritarians take over the constitution, bit by bit, until there’s so little left. Wonder if the kids can wear a US flag T-shirt in Albemarle or Charlottesville. Wonder if the wimp generation would care.

    It’s interesting that cops and security personnel,fire fighters, college ball players, others are -required- to wear US flags sewn onto their uniforms, and the kids in this California school are forbidden to.

    Most posters here, having been raised wrong, will cheer the school for replacing the US Constitution with wimp sensitivity that says honoring the constitution potentially could make someone feel bad. Believing that is one definition of raised wrong.


    SAN JOSE, Calif. — Seeking to vindicate the First Amendment rights of students, The Rutherford Institute has filed a lawsuit against a California public school district over its decision to prohibit students from wearing American flag t-shirts to school on Cinco de Mayo. The lawsuit alleges that the constitutional rights of students at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Calif., were violated when school administrators decided that t-shirts bearing the image of the U.S. flag should be banned from school on May 5 because of the Mexican holiday “Cinco de Mayo.” Alleging that the decision by school officials constitutes viewpoint discrimination against pro-U.S.A. expression, the complaint filed on behalf of the students and their parents seeks a declaration that the action violated the First Amendment and injunctive relief against a vague school district policy allowing prior restraints on speech to be imposed upon students.

    A copy of the complaint is available here.

    “This is a clear and egregious violation of the free speech rights of these students,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “This type of discrimination and censorship cannot be allowed in our schools or it will destroy the First Amendment.”

    According to the complaint, on May 5, 2010, three Live Oak High School students wore patriotic apparel to school which bore various images of the U.S. flag. During a mid-morning “brunch break,” the students were approached by Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez, who allegedly told the students they could not wear their pro-U.S.A. shirts and gave them the option of either removing their shirts or turning them inside out. When the students refused because the options would be disrespectful to the flag, Rodriguez ordered them to go to his office. After two of the students’ parents arrived at the school, Rodriguez is alleged to have lectured the group about Cinco de Mayo and indicated that this day was not for America. Principal Nick Boden then met with the parents and students and allegedly affirmed Rodriguez’s order stating that it was inappropriate to wear pro-U.S.A. shirts to school on Cinco de Mayo. According to the complaint filed by Rutherford Institute attorneys, two of the students were ordered to leave the school with their parents when they refused to comply with the ultimatum to conceal the U.S. flag image on their shirts. The lawsuit asserts that school officials violated the students’ rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the protection of freedom of speech granted by the California Constitution.

  • I am a former AHS student/graduate and I must ask…

    Freedom of Speech??? We do live in America!!!!

    As the headliner states, “The article—which is utterly unobjectionable—raised the ire of the gym teachers, who insisted that they couldn’t teach class if students were to read the article.”

    What is so awful that the gym teachers wouldn’t be able to hold gym class?

    Perhaps the article should be published city/county wide if the school isn’t willing to report what the students have to say.

    FREEDOM OF SPEECH. End of story.

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