Principal names himself paper's editor

MISSISSIPPI — In an unusual twist to the issue of high school censorship, principal Pete McMurry of Itawamba Agricultural High School has named himself editor in chief of the student newspaper after students sought to include a political cartoon in the paper last spring.

Former Chieftain editor Nicholas Nunnally, who is now a student at nearby Itawamba Community College, said the current student editor at the newspaper may bring a lawsuit if the school does not give students more control over their newspaper.

“If the administration of the high school…won’t give control [of The Chieftain] to students unless a court tells them to,” Nunnally said, “we’ll take them to court.”

Itawamba High School superintendent David Cole, who is also the president of Itawamba Community College said he will support McMurry’s decision to act as adviser and editor of The Chieftain. Cole said the school has no official newspaper adviser to “teach students the role of the press in a free society” and that McMurry’s decision to name himself the paper’s editor was reasonable.

“Their influences are not school-based…the students meant well, but were led by influences not related to them” said Cole.

Cole defended McMurry’s initial response to the cartoon, which was to confiscate all copies of the newspaper, by saying the cartoon was “inappropriate” and “would have caused bad blood.”

The original cartoon portrayed a school district administrator visibly sweating after being asked about his long term plans for the high school. The cartoon has never been published in The Chieftain.

Itawamba Agricultural High School, MIssissippi, reports, Winter 1996-97