Mo. students sue school after adviser is removed

MISSOURI – Staff members of a Missouri high school newspaper filed a First Amendment suit against their school in October after school officials removed their newspaper adviser.

Students at Blue Springs South High School in Blue Springs, Mo., claim that their former adviser, Valerie Halas, was removed from her position after she refused to censor stories to which school officials had objected. The students claim that since Halas’ removal they have not been permitted to make content decisions regarding the newspaper. Halas remains a teacher at the school.

The school received national attention two years ago when school officials prohibited the student newspaper, the Jaguar Journal, from publishing an article that described how local grocery stores sold cigarettes to minors in violation of state law.

The editor of the paper at the time claimed that school officials objected to the article after the stores, who were financial contributors to the school system, complained to them that the story would hurt their businesses.

After a local paper ran the story, the principal allowed the students to publish their article.

The Jaguar Journal received the Student Press Law Center’s 1996 Scholastic Press Freedom Award for its actions.