Principal stops distribution of student paper over ‘disruptive’ article

FLORIDA -The principal of Palm Coast High School canceledthe distribution of the student newspaper last week because ofa column that criticized teachers and administrators at the school.

Principal Larry Hungsinger demanded that students stop distributingthe Feb. 9 issue of Paw Prints, calling Jennifer Sciallo’sarticle criticizing school district employees who had recentlybeen arrested "disruptive to the school."

"We don’t feel that it’s right because we should be ableto have a columnist write her feelings on what’s going on,"said Jamie Rose, advertising editor of Paw Prints. "If[anyone] had a problem with it they could’ve written back in regardto it."

According to Rose, the article did not mention any teachers’names. Instead, it referred to the titles used by local newspapersthat had previously covered the incidents.

Before the controversial issue was published, assistant principalNeil McCoppin reviewed the content of the newspaper and approvedit for publication. Hungsinger, however, stopped distributionof the paper after receiving complaints from teachers. After meetingwith the newspaper adviser, the students agreed to stop distributingthe remaining 200 copies and write a retraction. 

"I think a lot of teachers took it as being overly degradingto the school and took personal offense to it," said JeremyVandervliet, first-year Paw Prints adviser. 

"They expect fluff in student newspapers, not real stuff,"he added.

According to Hungsinger, the article caused havoc and frustrationamong teachers. 

"My responsibility here is to make sure that everythingruns smoothly and orderly," Hungsinger said. "The actualarticle was allowed to be printed, and as a result of that, numerousindividuals came to me very distraught. I felt at that pointin time the article needed to be curtailed."

Hungsinger added that the article stereotyped the entire facultyat Palm Coast based on a few individuals who had been involvedin negative incidents. 

"I had no problem with the facts, but when you take thefacts and extrapolate that into the entire faculty, that’s wherethey ran into the problem," Hungsinger said. "I don’treally think that’s very good journalism."

Vandervliet, who does not choose any of the content for theschool-sponsored newspaper, said he supports his students butcan understand Hungsinger’s position.

Hungsinger met with the students on Tuesday to discuss thesituation. 

"It was good," Vandervliet said. "They got thechance to ask some pretty blunt questions, and he got the chanceto honestly reply."

He added, "It was a matter of respect for my staff justto have an actual, official explanation rather than just an order."

But according to Rose, the Paw Prints staff wants toprint the original column again or one similar to it, along withletters to the editor replying to the article. Although Vandervlietsaid he does not want to get involved with the issue, he sayshe will help his students.

"I’m not going to help them decide what they want to do,"Vandervliet said. "I’m just going to help them figure outwhat they can do."

The students have sent e-mails to two local newspapers withthe hopes they will be interested in covering the story. In addition,they have put together a parent-student support group that includessome Palm Coast teachers.