Administrator bans criticism in paper after editorial attack on cafeteria food

WASHINGTON -- After receiving complaints from cafeteria workers over a student newspaper commentary that called school lunches "gross," the principal of Whitman Middle School in Seattle prohibited the publication of anything in The Source "that is critical of or might be construed as critical of any Whitman staff member or program."

"It is important that our staff works as a team and that concept is jeopardized if we are publicly critical of each other or allow students to publicly criticize staff members, especially in print," principal Jane Lambert said in a memo.

But newspaper adviser Maggie Everett called the principal's directive censorship. She said her students are upset about the ban.

"They think they have the right to point things out, to report about things that somebody might construe as critical," Everett said.

The controversial article criticized cafeteria food, calling school lunches "not healthy."

A letter from the cafeteria workers' union complaining about the article prompted Lambert to issue the memo banning criticism of school staff and programs from the pages of The Source.

Everett said students are trying to change the policy.

"I've never had a class be so interested in the [textbook] chapter on rights and responsibilities," she said.

reports, Spring 2000