Students say district forced them to publish paper

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Posted by on November 25, 2009 at 09:35:27:

In Reply to: Suburban high school bans issue of student paper posted by Newsboy on November 20, 2009 at 13:55:28:

Stevenson High School: Students say district forced them to publish paper

By William Lee
Tribune reporter
November 25, 2009

Less than a week after administrators at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire halted the release of the student newspaper because of stories dealing with drinking, smoking and teen pregnancy, staff members said they were told they had less than two hours to produce a paper without the controversial stories, or receive failing grades.

The staff members said they were not allowed to remove their bylines from the paper, which they said was sloppily put together and rushed to printers.

"We had no time to do it. It was sloppy. It was gross. It's not what we do," said Stevenson senior and staff writer Stephanie Glassberg. "It's not our paper anymore, it's the administration's paper."

Statesman Editor-in-Chief Pam Selman said the paper's staff was given the option to move past the November issue and concentrate on next month's issue, something the administration denied saying.

Newspaper staff members said they felt forced and threatened to put out an inferior product.

District 125 spokesman Jim Conrey said the administration never intended to stop publication of the paper. "We never said we were not going to publish the November issue. We said the issue was being delayed to provide more time for editing and layout," Conrey said.

Free-speech advocates criticized the administrators Tuesday.

"This is certainly one of the more outlandish abuses of power we've ever seen by a school administration," said Frank LoMante, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a more blatant violation of the First Amendment than what Stevenson has done today."

The controversy centered on several stories slated to run in last Friday's paper. In one, two National Honor Society students, quoted anonymously, admitted to drinking and smoking, which are prohibited under the society's no-use contract. Newspaper staff members said they have secured free legal counsel.

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