Underground papers also fall prey to censorship





In light of the widespread censorship and restrictions placed on them by administrators, sometimes student journalists who seek free expression are left with no other choice but to ignore school-sponsored publications altogether and establish independent newspapers.

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The advent of the Internet and widely available desktop publishing software has made the creation of independent student newspapers easier, but the task of distributing and promoting them can still be daunting for students in restrictive school districts.

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Three students at Ashland High School in Massachusetts had difficulty getting their underground publication The Real Deal off the ground, but their perseverance at attempting to distribute the paper paid off.

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Principal Shelley Marcus Cohen clamped down on distribution when editors Jon Rosenblum, Jon Turner and Alan Weene handed out the first issue in December.

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The students then took their case to Superintendent Richard Hoffman, who allowed them to distribute their paper before and after school and during lunch.

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The three editors had been driven to publish The Real Deal on their own time and using their own funds after a venture working with Cohen and using school equipment turned sour earlier last fall. Ashland does not currently have a school-sponsored newspaper.

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Three Indiana students were suspended from Columbus North High School when their satirical independent newspaper the Quadrilateral offended some students and annoyed administrators.

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Principal John Green and deans at Columbus suspended editor Jordan Smith for five days and writers Ethan Moses and Robbie Petry for three days after the students distributed the Quad at the school in February. The deans also compiled a list of students known to have copies of the paper and confiscated them from students, including Christina Souza, editor of the school's official student newspaper The Triangle.

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Green said the Quad's publishers warranted punishment because of attacks on individuals and groups that caused a "major disruption" at the school. "I had a girl come to me in tears," he said.

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Journalism adviser Kim Greene said that Columbus is a "very liberal school" but sometimes administrators cross the line in carrying out their punitive duties.

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No more editions of the Quad have appeared online (quadpaper.tripod.com) since the suspensions, but Souza published a column on student rights in the following issue of The Triangle.

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Five eighth-grade students at Ogilvie Public Schools in Minnesota are working with attorneys from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on their case against the school for punishing them following publication of an underground 'zine last fall.

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The Zine

included criticism of two classmates and a poll where students could choose their favorite "eighth-grade hottie" boy.\n

The five girls distributed about 20 copies of the publication in September.

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Administrators confiscated the copies and barred the girls from participation in two weeks of volleyball games and opening night of the school play.

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In March, the girls sent a letter to the school board requesting that it adopt a publication policy that falls in line with the Constitution. Two of their attorneys in April requested the board not adopt a policy allowing prior review.


reports, Spring 2002