Pubdate: Tue, 03 Jun 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Gordon Dritschilo
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


MIDDLEBURY -- A high school teacher said he hopes to spark discussion
on how to best supervise the student newspaper.

A publishing class that would focus on putting out the paper is
tentatively on next year's schedule, according  to Principal William

Timothy O'Leary, an English teacher who ran the  journalism class that
put out the paper this year, said  he hopes to take advantage of a
School Board discussion of the class to talk about censorship issues.
The board  meets at 5:30 p.m. today at the high school.

The Tigers' Print, put out by students at Middlebury Union High
School, caused a stir in April with an  article in which it named a
student who admitted to smoking marijuana before class. Lawson said
he advised  against naming the student, but did not forbid it. 
Friday, he said he wishes he had.

"I think the fact that he allowed himself to be identified could have
been injurious to him and could  have subjected us to litigation,"
Lawson said.

Lawson stressed his problem was not with the story itself, but with
naming the specific student.

In the wake of the story, Lawson said he would keep a closer eye on
the paper's content. He said nothing was censored in the May issue
and the April issue remains available on the Web site.

"I don't want to censor," he said. "I don't want to be in that
position. Do I think I have a right to? I do have a right to. I would
go to the end of the earth to not exercise that option. "I hope I
can encourage  people to use good judgment so that's not necessary."

Lawson said his record is second to none in tolerating diverse views,
to the point where he has been criticized for some of the groups he
has allowed into the school. He said The Tigers' Print ran a number
of  controversial pieces that he made no attempt to rein in.

In 13 years, Lawson said, MUHS has not had a paper as good as The
Tigers' Print and he has never felt the need to step in.

O'Leary said that Lawson's decision came without any discussion and
he argued that if the school wants to teach good journalism, it needs
to adopt a hands-off policy.

"The administration making this claim has really had a chilling
effect on what students are writing, collaboration of ideas in the
classroom," he said. "I  think it leads to a kind of self-censorship,
on a  conscious and an unconscious level."

While professional writers self-censor in a sense and editors have a
say over what goes into print, O'Leary  said collaboration is healthy
because of the daily relationship between members of the staff.
Edicts from outside the staff have a different effect, he said.

"That type of censorship does not have a place in a class you call
journalism," he said.

O'Leary argued that while someone on the staff should  certainly serve
as an adviser, ultimate authority must  reside with students if the
paper is going to function as a student voice. O'Leary said he did
not think there  should be an adult with the authority to veto a story
 or part of a story.

"If we want to understand any group, it's important to give them the
opportunity to have that voice," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin