Principal tries to censor prom coverage





TEXAS — A controversy over the prom led Principal Jimmy Jones of Lamar High School to butt heads with editors of the student newspaper, The Viking Scroll.

When the paper made the plans for an “alternative prom” the lead story of its March issue, Jones confiscated the papers for a day before allowing them to be distributed.

The alternative prom was a student protest to a new district-wide policy that required everyone attending the official prom to take a breathalyzer test.

Besides announcing that tickets for the alternative prom had gone on sale, the March issue contained an editorial that applauded the alternative prom effort and two columns on the same topic.

After Jones prevented the papers from being distributed on time, editor in chief Chris Mycoskie contacted local media in order to publicize the censorship.

“The best way to get my way was to go to the media,” explained Mycoskie, who first called the Arlington Star Telegram. After a story ran the next day, Mycoskie said, local television and radio stations picked up on the controversy.

According to Mycoskie, Jones said he held up distribution because “he wanted to look it over more and let the district’s attorney look it over.”

Jones had also told Mycoskie that one column might have been libelous to the superintendent.

After meeting with the newspaper staff, Jones allowed the paper to be distributed with no content changes.

Although the immediate incident seemed resolved, problems came up again after the April edition of the newspaper included coverage of both the alternative prom and the previous month’s censorship. Jones insisted on reviewing the paper before it went to press, Mycoskie said.

Although no censorship occurred, Mycoskie said he was told that the final issue of the paper in May after the proms could not include any coverage of the alternative prom. The same directive was given to Lamar’s yearbook, The Valhalla. According to Mycoskie, Jones said he was banning coverage because the event was not school-sponsored.

After the proms had taken place, newspaper and yearbook staff members penned a letter to Superintendent Lynn Hale appealing Jones’ decision. The students argued in the letter that “The Viking Scroll is a forum for news important to the Lamar community, not just the items sponsored by the school.”

Jones met with Mycoskie later that week with new instructions.

“He said he’d rethought his decision,” said Mycoskie. “The only stipulation was that we had to give [the proms] equal coverage.”

The final issue of the newspaper and the yearbook were in compliance with the order.

“Whatever way, we got to cover the story and won the battle,” said Mycoskie. “I hope if the breathalyzers stay, they are not going to question [coverage of it] again next year.”

Jones did not return calls from the Report.


Fall 1997, reports