Mich. school censors newspaper the first time in 75-year history, considers prior review

MICHIGAN — A seven-line article abouta fatal accident was removed from Grosse Pointe South High School’sstudent newspaper, The Tower, the first time administrators have censoredthe newspaper in its 75-year history.Administrators are now consideringprior review of The Tower and told the staff members that the Jan. 29issue will not run.Alex Lang, Tower managing editor, saidPrincipal D. Allen Diver told their adviser on Jan. 13 less than an hour beforedeadline to remove the story, which reported a traffic accident involving aGrosse Pointe South student and the father of another student. The father diedfrom injuries sustained when he was struck by the SUV the student was driving.The article was based on an interview with the police and did not report namesor list information sensitive to the investigation.A statement releasedby the Grosse Pointe Public School System said the administration removed thestory to avoid causing the families involved in the accident “considerablepain and suffering.” It stated, “The administration also felt thatpublication of the story presented a serious risk of inflaming an alreadydelicate situation”Lang said he knew the subject of the articlewas sensitive. “But then again, we felt we had a job to inform the studentbody of the accident. There were rumors going around about the accident,”Lang said.Kathy Roberts, a Grosse Pointe Public Schools spokesperson,said that the article would not have dispelled rumors because “it wasalmost identical to an article that had appeared in the local newspaper. It didnot have any additional information.”Principal Diver is nowconsidering whether to begin reviewing The Tower prior to publication.Roberts said Diver was discussing a new plan for overseeing the paper withThe Tower’s adviser, Jeff Nardone.“Ultimately theprincipal always has the right to oversee the paper,” Roberts said.Nardone declined to comment.Lang said Diver does not regularlyreview Tower articles prior to publication.“This is hissecond year and we’ve never had a problem with that.” Langsaid.Former Tower adviser Bob Button said there is a long historyof freedom for the student press at Grosse Pointe South. “Therewas no censorship during the 28 years I was there,” Buttonsaid.Button, now assistant director of the Virginia High School League,said administrators were often involved with the paper in positive ways,offering suggestions and helping students to recognize their freedoms andresponsibilities as reporters. “Never did a principal demand changes orkeep a story from publication,” Button said.Now the administrationis attempting to keep an entire issue from press. Lang said Nardone read astatement that said, “At this point there will be no issueWednesday,” and then told the staff not to ask him anyquestions.When the staff heard this Lang said everyone was“shocked and disappointed.” “It was just a normalissue, nothing about censorship,” he said.The administration holdsthat they have not violated the students’ First Amendment rights, and thatthis decision does not diminish the school’s support of its studentjournalists. But Lang disagrees. He said he and other Tower staff membersare planning to meet with Superintendent Suzanne Klein on Jan. 28 and, ifnecessary, bring their concerns to the next school board meeting.“We want to know why we’re not allowed to print ourpaper,” Lang said.