Wyo. paper confiscated for pro/con article on elderly

WYOMING — About 400 copies of Equus were confiscatedat Cody High School after the principal feared the community wouldhave a negative reaction to a satirical opinion article.

The newspaper contained a pro/con commentary that asked, "Shouldyou respect your elders?" In one of the articles, two studentreporters humorously wrote why elderly citizens should not havespecial privileges, editor Adam Nace said.

"The average citizen deserves as much respect as an elderlyperson because first, senior citizens are the worst drivers onthe face of the earth. Second, they seem to be grumpy. And third,senior citizens expect special treatment wherever they go,"the students’ wrote.

In contrast, two other students argued why it was importantto respect elderly citizens. "It is not just respecting yourelders, it is showing maturity and compassion. They are just people;people who deserve our respect, if not for the deeds they havedone, for the bravery when they were young, for their strength,then for the fact that they have lived in this world longer thanus."

Shortly after the issue was distributed on Dec. 7, principalButch Reder began receiving complaints from school workers, includingone employee who was in tears. Reder said he collected as manycopies as he could find. Adviser Mike Riley said 400 copies wereprobably confiscated and destroyed from the 1,000-copy press run.

"The article in the paper was just inappropriate,"Reder said. "You’re talking about people in our communitywho give a lot of money to our school."

Nace said he was shocked when he heard the paper was pulled.The students quickly regrouped and published another issue onDec. 21.

Despite his decision to confiscate the paper, Reder met withthe journalism class that publishes the newspaper to emphasizethe students’ First Amendment rights. Reder said he had no interestin reviewing the paper before it went to press and he volunteeredto pay for the next three issues. He told the Report, however,that would not stop him from confiscating the paper in the future.

"If that paper comes out again and they’re over the line– I mean if there’s derogatory stuff in there — I wouldn’t hesitatea minute pulling the paper," he said. "I think that’smy job."

The Cody Enterprise, a local newspaper, also got intothe mix when it published an editorial lauding the principal’sdecision.

"There was no infringing on anyone’s rights here,"wrote Vic Cappiello in a signed editorial. "Press freedom, even for professionals,much less school publications, isn’t completely guaranteed bythe First Amendment. It comes with limitations including libel,slander, obscenity and threats to national security. Not to mention,the implied good taste statute."

Riley responded to the editorial with a letter to the editor.He also said the worst might not be over.

After a meeting with Reder on Wednesday, Riley said he wastold to keep a closer watch over his students to avoid similarproblems in the future.

"[Reder] said he expected me in my job as adviser to censorthe paper for things in poor taste and to review spelling andgrammar errors," Riley said. "I see my job as defendingmy students’ free-press rights."

Riley said he already works closely with students and had reviewedthe controversial commentary with Nace before the issue was printed.

"The worst thing that we could do is start censoring ourselves,"Nace said. "We’ve tried not to do that, but I have to goover everything so carefully. I read things and think that someonemight take something out of context and then this might happen again."