High school censorship in brief

Paper nearly folded after running photo, story on flag-burning

CALIFORNIA -- The superintendent of Shasta Union High School District in Redding plans to get help from the local newspaper to teach student journalists how to make calculated editorial decisions. The principal threatened to shut the paper down after The Volcano printed a photo on its cover of students burning an American flag and ran an editorial on the topic.

Superintendent Mike Stuart made his announcement in mid-June, reversing a decision by Shasta High School Principal Milan Woollard to shut down the paper. Woollard had said he would eliminate the newspaper class after the last edition of the paper printed. Woollard told the Redding Record Searchlight he found the issue embarrassing and that it cemented his decision to cut the paper.

Woollard and Stuart both later cited budget concerns as the primary reason for cutting the class. Stuart decided the following week to give Shasta High School extra funding to support a class section so the paper can continue.

Former football players wait for U.S. Supreme Court to decide if it will hear First Amendment case

TENNESEE -- Four student athletes who were kicked off their high school football team after circulating a petition critical of their coach in the fall of 2005 are awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether their appeal will be heard. The students filed with the Court June 13.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August 2007 that the players' First Amendment rights were not infringed because their efforts undermined the coach's authority, and because their only punishment was being removed from a voluntary extracurricular activity. The students were then denied a motion for full-court review.

The students' petition suggests that if the Court allows the current decision to stand, students' ability to act as whistleblowers may be chilled. The petition asks the justices to decide whether the Court's major student speech precedents "permit school officials to punish a student for his viewpoint of his speech as long as the speech does not involve a matter of public concern."

Linda J. Hamilton Mowles, attorney for Jefferson County High School and its athletic officials, including Coach Marty Euverard, told the Student Press Law Center in March she does not think the Supreme Court will hear the case because she believes they have already addressed the concerns in the case.

Case: Lowery v. Euverard, No. 06-6172 (U.S. cert. petition filed July 16, 2008).

Fall 2008, reports