A couple days ago, I read an article in our Kansas City newspaper about a high school in Missouri that is embroiled in a controversy. The principal insists that the students allow him to see and approve of whatever they put in the school paper. The students want to print news stories without censorship from the principal.
The article in question is one concerning the resignation of the superintendent and assistant superintendent of the district. Definitely a newsworthy story. Read the full article here for details. I see pros and cons on both sides of the argument which doesn't make me look like a very decisive person, does it?
Students working on a high school newspaper are in a learning process. They may jump to conclusions without fully checking the facts. That even happens with seasoned news writers who end up with egg on their face when someone challenges what was written. I think the principal is trying to prevent that happening and to prevent the persons involved in the news story from being hurt, if that might be the case.
This is not to say that the students did not check facts or are trying to embarrass those involved. We have no idea if that is true or not. This is certainly why the principal wants the authority to OK what is written before the school is put in a difficult position or becomes caught up in a law suit. That seems quite logical.
There is a faculty member who acts as advisor to the students putting out the newspaper. Surely she would see and check the articles going into the paper. In the article, this person indicates that she would be involved. Having been a faculty member in a school, I am quite sure the principal would be in discussion with the advisor, as well. The principal is responsible for both faculty and students.
It all boils down to freedom of the press. The question is: Should freedom of the press extend to high school newspapers?
A letter on this morning's Op-Ed pages indicated that a high school newspaper is owned and paid for by the high school. The school thereby has a right to censorship according to the letter writer.
What do you think? Should the principal have final say-so? Or should the kids be allowed to print whatever they choose?