The first thing I want to do this morning is highlight the good work of an organization called the Student Press Law Center.
The SPLC offers free information and legal services to students who have their right to freedom of the press squashed by ignorant, oafish school administrators. When I say “ignorant oafish school administrators”, I’m thinking about Dwight Greer, an assistant principal at Beachwood High School in Ohio, who threatened student Max Eden with suspension if he distributed the underground newspaper The Bison Blowhard to other students. Greer didn’t even read a copy of The Blowhard. He just heard rumors that the paper would be objectionable, and told Eden that he would ban the paper on the grounds that it “will cause a disruption in the school”. Imagine that – students writing about ideas is now considered a disruption to the normal school process. Well, that explains how intelligent design theology got crammed into the science curriculum in Kansas.
I also think that the phrase “ignorant oafish school administrators” refers quite aptly to Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Tom Bailey, who searched through teachers’ desks in his zeal to confiscate every last issue of the student newspaper at the high school. Tom Bailey explained that he had to squelch students’ rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution because there was an article in the newspaper discussing birth control. Bailey said he had “a responsibility to the public to do the right thing.” That’s true, but doing the right thing is not engaging in politically and religiously motivated censorship of student newspapers. Doing the right thing, for a Superintendent overseeing a public high school, is to encourage students to be active citizens, using their civil liberties in order to discuss important issues – especially issues that are relevant to teenagers, like birth control.
Those school administrators who think that they really have the power to keep students from discussing ideas freely ought to consider the origin of this web site – Irregular Times. In a sense, the origin of Irregular Times can be traced back to an underground student newspaper, The Student Voice. The Student Voice was distributed at North Rose – Wolcott High School back in 1987 and 1988. I myself remember how the school administration attempted to stop the production of that paper, hauling students into the office to issue them warnings – even though the students pulled into the office had nothing to do with the underground paper. Well, we kept on writing, and what we wrote eventually became Irregular Times.
Knowing typical high school administrators, I now have to explain in simple terms what the moral of the story is. The moral of the story is that censoring high school students doesn’t work. All that hamhanded administration attempts to interfere with the free student press accomplish is the education of young Americans in the important role of independent voices free of corrupt influence. Thanks to the jerks who tried to shut down The Student Voice, Irregular Times has been up and running online for over ten years. We look forward to hearing from the newer generations of independent media voices who are just now recovering from their own gag orders in the high schools of today.