Illinois high school principal/censor needs civics lesson

A high school in Illinois is conducting the most obtrusive, anti-American censorship and student-press brutality that I have ever seen.  It’s simply shocking.

Officials at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire have committed the following acts against the high school paper, The Statesman,  according to reports by the Chicago Tribune, WBBM-TV and the Student Press Law Center:

  • Prohibited publication of reasoned stories about drinking and smoking by honor students.
  • Prohibited publication of a story about teen pregnancy.
  • Prohibited the students from leaving the front page blank in protest of the censorship.
  • Prohibited the students from writing an editorial about the censorship.
  • Threatened to search out the identity of anonymous sources included in the spiked stories, saying students have no shield law protection.
  • Threatened to give the students failing grades unless they cooperated  in the production and distribution of the newspaper with administration-directed stories within two hours. Like a forced labor camp for the Pravda.
  • Required students to keep their bylines on the stories for the hastily produced issue that was full of errors and sloppy, even though students were ashamed at the quality of the forced-production paper and wanted their bylines removed.
  • Established a prior review panel to examine every story before publication to make sure it is OK with the administration.

School officials said their actions are “no different than what occurs in professional newsrooms every day.”

Let’s give the school officials a civics lesson: School officials are the government that student journalists cover, like the mayor, govenor, or president. The mayor, governor and president do not censor The New York Times. Professional newsrooms do not (or should not) shy away from controversial subjects.

This kind of censorship is hurting the students’ education. It is teaching them – and all their peers – that it is OK for the government to tell citizens what they can write about, and that citizens shall not protest authority. This kind of administration is immoral, un-American, irresponsible and not fit for education.

The students are being represented pro-bono by Chicago attorney Gabe Fuentes. Show your support for these students, the scholastic press, and the First Amendment by writing and editorializing about Stevenson High School’s misguided trampling of press rights.

Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the public’s right to know — either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ