Booneville H.S. off the hook

ARKANSAS — After threatening to inflict a prior review policy on a high school student newspaper, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has dropped the complaint against the school.The complaint was filed with the Department after an article appeared in the December 1996 issue of Booneville High School1s student newspaper, Bearcat Eyes.The front page article summarized a charity event in which students were auctioned off to the highest bidder to be their “maid or butler” for a day. The story included the headline “Student Council sponsors slave auction for Goodfellows.”In response, one reader filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, which followed up by offering to the Booneville superintendent a settlement that required him to end the school’s sponsorship of the event and to set up a review process for the newspaper. The provision would have established a formal policy requiring a designated adviser to review all school-sponsored publications prior to publication.However, the Office of Civil Rights has decided not to pursue the complaint. Paul Bloom, the attorney for the school board, stated that — after several “less-than cordial phone calls” — he received a message from the office that the complaint was dropped.Bloom noted, “They just folded up their tents and went away.”The Bearcat Eyes’ adviser, Lana Hampton, attributes the complaint1s dismissal to the support she received from Bruce Plopper, the director of the Arkansas High School Press Association, and from the Student Press Law Center.