Principal, student win courage award


Defense of student press freedom recognized at convention





A former high school student newspaper editor from Arkansas and a high school principal from Missouri received the fifth annual Courage in Student Journalism Awards presented by the Newseum, the Student Press Law Center and the National Scholastic Press Association.

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\nThe awards were presented to Holly Ballard, formerly senior editor of the Bryant High School student newspaper in Alexander, Ark., and Julie Leeth, principal of Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo., at the National Scholastic Press Association and Journalism Education Association Fall Convention in Dallas on Nov. 23.

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\nBallard was honored for last year's struggles with administrators at her school over editorial control of the student newspaper, The Prospective.

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\nLast spring, Bryant High School administrators exercised editorial control measures and stopped the circulation of a sex survey The Prospective sponsored. With Ballard as their spokesperson, the students took their case to the school board as well as to local and national media.

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\nBy June 2002, the board had renewed the student newspaper adviser's contract, which it had held up in the midst of the controversy, and accepted the students' terms for compromise. The principal also dropped his demand for prior review and approval. Ballard is now a freshman at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

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\nLeeth has been a defender of student press rights in Springfield for 28 years. In fall 2001, she stood up for producers of a student television program when it raised the ire of school district officials.

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\nHillcrest High School's HTV Magazine aired a commentary in which a student compared the scheming of reality television contestants to the atmosphere of monthly school board meetings. The district superintendent demanded that the commentary be eliminated from subsequent showings, and the school board passed a policy that called for prior review of all student-produced programs.

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\nLeeth supported the decision by the student producer and adviser to continue to show the program unedited, she has since refused to enforce a policy of prior review and she has raised questions about the lessons the district is teaching students about free press and the First Amendment.

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\nBoth Leeth and Ballard received $5,000 prizes with the award.


Click here to read more about the Courage in Student Journalism Awards.


reports, Winter 2002-03