A Call to Arms: Miami-Dade County students to protest change to student expression policy

FLORIDA — South Florida students are organizing a rallyto protest a number of rules drafted by the Miami-Dade CountySchool District that would give administrators more freedom toexercise prior review over student publications and theatricalproductions.

Journalism and theater students from various high schools andmiddle schools in the district have scheduled the rally for June10 outside the district’s administration building starting at4:30 p.m. and ending when the school board meeting is completed.

As stated in the proposed policy changes, “Schools mayexercise editorial control over the style and content of studentspeech … as long as the actions of the school are reasonablyrelated to legitimate educational concerns.” The existingpolicy concerning student publications, which was last amendedin 1994, is nationally recognized for it’s support for freedomof the press.

If the draft of rules were ever taken up and passed by theschool board, principals would have too much leeway to censorstudent publications before they go to print, said Shirley Yaskin,Miami Palmetto High School newspaper adviser and a promoter ofthe rally.

“We want to convince the board to drop this issue forever,”she said. “This isn’t fair to students.”

District deputy superintendent Henry Fraind said the schoolboard has no intention of implementing prior review measures atthis time. Though the rule was drafted, it is not being consideredby the school board, he said.

Fraind blames the local media’s coverage of the issue as influencingpeople to think something bad will happen to the student media.

“Nothing is going on in the public schools,” he said.”The media reporting on this issue have it all wrong. Theyare not doing good reporting, rather they are igniting the irein people.”

The school district, which has been nationally known for itsliberal policy on student free expression, was the scene of anothercontroversy involving censorship recently.

In May, the principal at Northwestern High School told thesenior class valedictorian and salutatorian they could not givecommencement speeches because of the risk their speeches mightcriticize the administration.

The two students are planning to speak at the rally, Yaskinsaid.

For more information about the situation in Dade County andthe rally, see the following Web site: