Cancelled class jeopardizes newspaper


Principal's move seen as censorship





NEW YORK — Kristin Bates was looking forward to enrolling in Brocton High School’s only journalism class this year.

The junior even received permission to enter the class one year earlier than the recommended senior credit requirement. Her enthusiasm to write made her a perfect candidate.

“I’ve had my hopes set on being in the class since I was a freshman,” Bates said. “I’ve been asking about it for two years, waiting to get in.”

But now Bates and the 36 other students enrolled in the class are left wondering why they will no longer be able to study the subject at school anymore — this after principal EvaDawn Bashaw decided to cut the course from existence in May after the school newspaper published a poll showing a majority of students did not like the school.

Courses in creative writing and Shakespeare will replace the journalism class.

Last year’s co-editor in chief of the award-winning paper, Julian Pisoni, said since Bashaw became principal in the fall of 1995, she and the journalism program have been at odds. But, he added, this move came as a complete surprise.

“We had no idea this was going to happen,” Pisoni said. “This is another way to control the students. The administration doesn’t like what’s in the paper and they think by getting rid of the program that the heat will get turned down a bit.”

In February, the student newspaper, Brocton Review, reported 67 percent of students would not send their own children to the high school after the paper polled the student body. This enraged Bashaw, Pisoni said.

But Bashaw said the class was canceled because new school rules require the addition of a section of English in an effort to reduce class sizes, not because of a grudge against the newspaper.

However, Bashaw does not credit the journalism class with any of the paper’s success. This is why teaching creative writing will be just as valuable a learning experience, she said.

“The paper is award winning not because of the class, but because of the students,” she said.

Further fueling the controversy, the school board has agreed with the decision, despite pleas from parents and students.

The Brocton Review’s copy editor last year, Danny Petrella, said board members justified the decision to drop the class at a June school board meeting on the grounds that studying the subject in high school would be no more beneficial than studying creative writing.

School district clerk, Linda Miller, added several area colleges were contacted and confirmed the board’s opinion.

But in May, new board members were elected to office and some supporters of the journalism program at the school are hopeful there could be a reversal in policy to bring back the class.

Although Brocton Review adviser and former instructor of the journalism class Dadie Sedota was eventually told she could not speak to the media by the school district, she told the Brocton Evening Observer in June that dropping the journalism class will have an impact on the student newspaper.

“It will be like trying to put on a musical without offering the students a music class,” Sedota said.

Since the journalism class helped prepare students for being on the paper and produced a number of stories for publication throughout the year, Pisoni said canceling the class will hurt the paper and students in the school dramatically.

“The class is beneficial,” he said. “It helped me to interact with people and to put things into words. It helped everyone who went through it.”


Fall 1998, reports