High school students face punishment for speech





Florida's Gulf Coast High School in Naples will no longer be permitted to have her byline published in the newspaper.

The school principal told Tiffany Thompson, co-editor of The Gulf Coastline, in April that she will still be able to do layout work and co-write stories but will not be able to write any more articles herself.

The commentary Thompson wrote for the March issue, titled "Can I be brutally honest: homie G the enemy," criticized the rap music industry for the role models it creates. Many minority students at the school felt that Thompson was attacking them, although race was never mentioned in the article.

Los Angeles school district officials announced a decision in March to transfer four California students to other schools because of their involvement with an underground newspaper.

The transferred students, along with seven others, were also suspended from Palisades High School for their roles in creating an independent publication -- produced with school computers and copy machines -- that administrators denounced as emotionally damaging to the school's teachers.

Administrators' decision to ban the newspaper, titled Occasional B.J., and suspend 11 of the estimated 40 students involved in its production, sparked a protest by Palisades students. Approximately 300 of the school's 2,500 students skipped morning classes on March 22 to attend a campus rally held in support of the newspaper and the students who created it.

Two Connecticut students suspended for asking to include the name of a popular rap group in their yearbook settled a six-year lawsuit against the school district in March after the district agreed to pay each $10,000 and erase the punishment from their records..

The Thomaston High School seniors, Daniel Reilly and Robert Scanlon, submitted a list of their personal memories to be printed in the yearbook, according to the school's procedure. They included the name of a rap album, "EFIL4ZAGGIN" -- "Niggaz4Life" spelled backwards -- by the group N.W.A., in their memory lists. The principal suspended both of them for submitting an "inappropriate request."

Two Nebraska high schools banned further distribution of the Alpha Clarion, a satirical newspaper created by students, after an assistant principal confiscated the second issue in February.

The paper was created as a humorous alternative to the official school newspaper of Southeast High School in Lincoln, and two issues were distributed at both Southeast High School and Lincoln High School. The assistant principal of Lincoln High School said he banned the newspaper because of its vulgar language.

Student editors of the Alpha Clarion say they plan to publish a third edition this spring.

In Indiana, the last of 15 Greenwood High School students and one former Greenwood student accused of vandalizing a student journalist's car were sentenced in February.

The vandals received varying sentences, including 16 to 80 hours of community service, probation, a requirement to write a letter of apology and a stipulation that they avoid any harassing contact with the victim of the crime, said Wade Wallace, deputy prosecutor for Johnson County.

The vandals were also required to pay restitution to the victim for damages to his vehicle. Each will pay $186.77.

A Missouri high school student who sued her school district and former principal last year for refusing to allow her to pass out religious literature at school reached a settlement with the district in February.

The settlement will allow Crystal Patterson to hand out "Truth for Youth Bibles" during non-instructional times in the Northwest Valley School District.


reports, Spring 2000