'Timeliness' argument used to censor newspaper
Principal removes story from front page, claims it was not yet ready to publish
TEXAS — A high school principal pulled a story about the formation of a gay and lesbian support group for students on campus from the front page of the school’s student newspaper in May, stating the story lacked timeliness.
Although Newman Smith High School principal Lee Alvoid said she will allow the story to run this fall, the editor of The Odyssey, junior Matt Irwin, is threatening to file a lawsuit against the school on behalf of the newspaper.
“Needless to say, this is outrageous,” Irwin said. “We feel it’s not the administration’s place to tell us when we can run an article. That’s up to us.”
Also stating the article left too many questions unanswered, Alvoid felt the decision to hold the story weighed most heavily on the fact that she is still researching whether the support group, which was formed this past spring, could exist at the school. The school board will decide in September if the group can become a school organization.
Irwin, however, said he believes Alvoid ordered the story removed from the paper because of personal feelings about gays and lesbians. He described the region surrounding the school, located in Carrollton, as the “Bible belt of America.”
“They don’t want awareness on the whole issue,” he said. “They don’t want the students and parents to know that the group is being formed so no one will show up to the school board meeting in the fall to support it.”
Alvoid, who said Irwin likes to sensationalize issues, cited a clause in the district’s policy that gives the administration the power to regulate time, place and manner of distribution of student publications.
“I’m really not a fascist principal,” she said. “The only times I’ve ever done anything with the paper is when a story wasn’t balanced. I don’t feel like I censored them at all because I fully intend for the story to run in the fall.”
The clause in the district’s policy, however, has nothing to do with restricting when a story can run, rather it is a guideline for when the paper can be distributed on campus, Irwin said.
The passage reads, “Regulations shall be narrowly drawn to promote orderly administration of school activities by preventing disruption and may not be designed to stifle expression.”
“Timeliness is not a cause to censor,” Irwin said. “The administration is letting their personal beliefs interfere with the student body and the student newspaper.”
Fall 1998, reports