Utah student sings censorship

Principal fails in halting student's homemade paper

\nUTAH - When student Dave Matthews moved to Kearns, Utah,\nat the beginning of this school year, he brought along the homemade\nnewspaper he started at his former high school. But what this\nnew kid at school never anticipated was his principal standing\nin the way of his free speech rights.

Matthews, a senior at Kearns High School, was told by his principal\nin February that he was no longer allowed to distribute his underground\nnewspaper, the Stool\nPigeon, at school because it was a flier, which goes against\na county ordinance which disallows private businesses and groups\nto distribute advertisements and fliers on school grounds.

The administrators eventually dropped the ban two weeks later\nafter their lawyer said students could not be considered outsiders,\nand therefore Matthews could continue distributing as long as\nit did not disrupt classes.

The situation arose after Matthews interviewed Principal Parley\nJacobs for a December edition of the Stool Pigeon, the\nthird issue of the year. The interview, which was about the school's\ntwo lunch periods merging into one, appeared on the front page.

\nMatthews said this type of school-related article was common in\nStool Pigeon as past issues have addressed such subjects\nas a better organized registration system and a petition drive\nto do away with the school's citizenship policy.

But when Jacobs found his interview in the Stool Pigeon\nand not in the school-sponsored newspaper where he thought it\nwould appear, he felt he had been mislead, according to Matthews.

\nA few days after Christmas break, Matthews was asked to the principal's\noffice where he was told he could no longer distribute his newspaper.\nMatthews said he asked if he could distribute copies on the sidewalks\noff of school property, but Jacobs responded that he could have\nMatthews arrested.

Matthews' parents later met with Jacobs, and his father asked\nhim if the article misrepresented him. According to Matthews,\nJacobs replied, "I don't know, I haven't read the article\nyet."

"I was really offended when I heard that," Matthews\nsaid. "I felt like my newspaper was banned, not because\nof its content, but solely because Dr. Jacobs wanted to."

A month later, Matthews distributed the year's fourth issue off\nschool grounds, and once again he said he ran into censorship\nproblems.

"I found out later that day that some of the administration\nhad been confiscating copies of the Stool Pigeon from students.\nI was so angry and provoked that I wrote to the Salt Lake\nTribune about it. I just couldn't believe what jerks [the\nschool officials] were," he said.

Matthews created Stool Pigeon, which consisted of humorous\nanecdotes and school-related topics, at his previous high school\nin Nevada. Originally it was only two pages long. Now he has\na staff of four, and the paper has grown to several more pages\nwith several more sections including a top ten list and a "Did\nYou Know?" section.

"The main reason why I continued the Stool Pigeon\nthis year is because I like to make people laugh and being able\nto voice my opinion," Matthews said. "I did consider\nworking for the school paper but I didn't like the restricting\natmosphere and have much more fun printing whatever I want to."

reports, Spring 1999