Journalist on probation following interview arrest

VIRGINIA — Student journalists are not the onlyones facing problems with school administrators these days. Justask Kelly Campbell, a former reporter for the Potomac Newsand Mannassas Journal Messenger, who will spend a yearon probation for the sake of an interview.

Campbell was covering a controversial biology project at WoodbridgeHigh School, in which a class was conducting an experiment involving2-day-old ducklings. Campbell had arranged to interview PrincipalKaren Spillman, but shortly after their conversation began, Spillmansaid the interview was over. When Campbell asked why, Spillmanhad her forcefully escorted out of the building, arrested by aschool security officer and taken to jail.

"The principal asked me the focus of my article and Itold her it was the concerns of the community with the duck project,"Campbell said. "I asked her for the biology teacher’s name,and she said, ‘Absolutely not — I know what you’re trying to do.’I could have just printed whatever research I had, but I wanteda balanced story. I said this is a public school and the peopleof the community want answers to their questions."

"Being arrested was just a timing thing," she continued."If [Spillman] had said, ‘This interview is over,’ I wouldhave asked her why and I would have left. I didn’t move, I justsat there in shock."

Campbell was charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass.

Although she pleaded not guilty in a hearing before PrinceWilliam County General District Judge Charles F. Sievers on Sept.14, Campbell stipulated that the court would find her guilty ifit heard the evidence and she agreed to accept probation for oneyear.

She will perform 50 hours of community service, pay $50 incourt costs, and remain off the high school’s property for oneyear. If she meets those conditions, the charges against herwill be dropped.

Potomac News editor Susan Svihlik said she was disappointedwith the court decision.

"As far as I’m concerned, [Campbell] didn’t do anythingwrong," she said. "They accused her of refusing to leavethe school property when the principal wouldn’t answer her questions.Kelly expressed surprise, but never refused to leave. Expressingsurprise is not against the law, nor is it trespass."