Round One Goes to School in Missouri Adviser Censorship Case

Students journalists at Blue Springs High School seeking to have their newspaper adviser reinstated lost their first court battle in late December when a federal district court judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have put Valerie Halas back in their newsroom.

While the case will continue, the judge’s refusal was a setback to the students who claim that since Halas’ reassignment, school officials have turned the newspaper into a public relations tool and have suppressed or altered stories the students thought were newsworthy.

They claim that Halas was removed from her job as adviser because she refused to censor stories to which school officials had objected.

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.

Case: David v. Board of Education of Blue Springs, No. 98-1152-CV-W-1 (W.D.Mo., filed Oct. 30, 1998)