N.J. principal confiscates paper, citing

NEW JERSEY — The latest edition ofThe Captain’s Log, the student newspaper at Toms River High SchoolNorth, was confiscated in mid-February after school officials deemed informationoffensive and false. The main article in question was an editorialwritten by Jeremy Whiteman, editor in chief of The Captain’s Log.Whiteman’s editorial questioned why advisers and administrators think itis necessary for student organization members to sign a pledge to stayalcohol-free, when he said they know that many students ignore the pledge anddrink anyway.“I knew the administration wouldn’t like [thearticle],” Whiteman said, “but I didn’t think they would stopme from writing it.”Student editors say the Feb. 17 distributiondate for The Captain’s Log was met with disappointment as adviserKathryn Coe informed the staff that the paper would not be released to studentsbecause Principal John Coleman did not approve of some of the articles in theFebruary/March issue.Coe could not be reached forcomment.Coleman also did not return calls seeking comment, but he toldthe Asbury Park Press that the newspapers were not distributed because hewas concerned that groups of students would have been offended by theinformation in Whiteman’s editorial. Coleman also said other statementsmight have been “prejudicial” to students. Coleman also indicatedthat he was concerned that Whiteman’s story was not specifically labeledas an editorial.Whiteman said there was no question that his piece,“Breaking the Code,” was an editorial. He said the article ran onPage 2, where all editorials have appeared since the first issue ofnewspaper.Coleman also told the Asbury Park Press that he onlytook issue with the editorial, but the staff says a copy of the February/Marchissue was returned to the adviser with highlighted passages from other articles. “[Coleman] made it apparent to us that he didn’t like theissues we were bringing up in the paper, and he didn’t want those issuesvoiced in the paper,” Whiteman said. “Everything [Coleman]highlighted was something that didn’t exactly make the school lookgood,” Whiteman said. Coleman highlighted portions of an editorialby Tara Glick that criticized the school’s decision to invite an anti-abortionspeaker to a health class. The headline “Go Out and Stay Out” for anarticle by Erica Moran also drew attention by Coleman. The article discussed aschool policy, which keeps students who go out for lunch from reentering thebuilding until the end of the lunch period, even on rainy days.EdBarocas, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey,said that although school administrators do have a degree of authority overschool-sponsored publications, he said, “There has to be a legitimateeducational interest. It can’t simply be that the principal simplydoesn’t like what was written.”In addition to the FirstAmendment, at least one New Jersey court has said the state constitution mayprovide stronger free press protection to student journalists.Thestudent editors said they believed that keeping the newspapers from beingdistributed was a form of censorship. “We know what’sappropriate and we know what’s not appropriate, and we just felt that ouropinions were being silenced,” Managing Editor Casey Coppingersaid.After a front-page article highlighting the situation appeared inthe Asbury Park Press Feb. 27, Coleman called a meeting with the adviserand the student editors of The Captain’s Log. Whiteman saidColeman told the staff he had received more than 100 e-mails and 30 phone callsrelated to the confiscation. Coleman reportedly told the staff they couldreprint any article that was not released in their March/April edition but thatWhiteman’s editorial must be labeled as such. Whiteman also said that theprincipal indicated that he wants to review a copy of the paper before it goesto press, a practice Whiteman said is in place at Toms River High SchoolEast.No one returned phone calls to the school district office seekingcomment.Despite $1,284 lost in printing fees, Whiteman said, “Ithink it’s a victory for us if the paper is printedagain.”“If that didn’t happen my voice would neverhave been heard and the paper’s voice would have never been heard,”Whitman said, “Hopefully now, nobody else will have to besilenced.”