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High school media censorship unconstitutional, but common

High school media censorship unconstitutional, but common

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I’m writing in response to the article about censorship at Albemarle High School (“AHS papers tossed after editorial,” The Daily Progress, June 18). Not only was the action taken by the administration unconstitutional, but, sadly, it is not that uncommon.

I served as editor-in-chief of Monticello High School’s newspaper 2005-2008. Several times, I was met by the heavy hand of censorship. I was shut down again and again if what I wrote did not paint MHS in a positive light.

Ellie Leech was right when she said it is not the journalist’s job to be a cheerleader. Student papers are not the administration’s propaganda outlets. Of course they should cover the positive aspects of the school. But student journalists should also have the chance to critique their school community. One would hope that those in charge would welcome the chance to dialogue about issues affecting students in such a public forum, rather than fear it and shut it down.

In my last year as editor, I published an editorial critiquing the English department. In it, I cited an English teacher by last initial (“Mr. B”). The backlash I received was astounding. Students praised me for my boldness, and teachers scolded me for my poor taste. The English department was furious. They all rallied around Mr. B, who was not actually offended by my piece and who felt that the defensive reaction of the other teachers was kind but unnecessary.

My editorial eventually even resulted in a visit to the principal’s office.

Despite the negative backlash, I survived. High school journalists are intelligent, capable citizens who recognize the possible reactions to a controversial article. I welcomed the strong reactions to my editorial, because that meant people were reading my work and talking about it, and I imagine Ellie would have felt the same.

I hope that administrators read this and realize that student journalists are not muckrakers intent on badmouthing the school. Even though I published a negative editorial, I still love MHS. I hope Ellie does publish her editorial come fall, and I hope the gym teachers and administration take the opportunity to respond and foster a discussion rather than succumb to their fears.

Lauren Bicknell

Charlottesville

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