Schools and administrators among those “honored” by Jefferson Muzzle awards
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression is out with its 2014 Jefferson Muzzles, the annual award it presents to those that “forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’” As usual, quite a few schools and administrators were recognized with awards. Among the honorees:
- The University of Kansas board of regents: After a journalism professor tweeted about the National Rifle Association following the September 2013 Naval Yard shooting, he was placed on administrative leave by the university. In response, the board of regents voted to impose a social media policy that allows the university to discipline faculty and staff for “improper use of social media.” Amid faculty outcry, that policy is presently being revisited.
- Modesto Junior College: This California college told a student who was handing out copies of the Constitution (on Constitution Day, no less), that he couldn’t distribute outside the student center. The only place he was allowed to pass it out was in a small “free speech zone.” With help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the student sued and ultimately settled with the college earlier this year.
- Wharton High School Principal Brad Woods: High school salutatorian Harold Shaw Jr. originally wrote a graduation speech that made a reference to what he viewed as unsanitary bathroom conditions. Administrators told him he couldn’t discuss the topic, and he revised his speech so it would be approved, omitting the bathroom references. At the graduation ceremony however, Shaw stumbled midway through his speech — and in the pause, Principal Brad Woods had Shaw’s microphone cut off and then had the student escorted out of the ceremony entirely, presumably fearing the student was about to go off-message.
- Pemberton Township High School Principal Ida Smith: Smith censored the school’s student newspaper, The Stinger, after objecting to several stories. Kylie Sposato, whose story about students smoking in the school bathrooms was censored , said Smith told her the topic was “inappropriate.” Later, when students tried to write about the censorship, they were told that topic was off-limits as well.