Colo. school reviews policy after paper runs photo of pledge law protest

COLORADO —- A photo illustration in the GrandJunction High School newspaper depicting two students protestingColorado’s mandatory Pledge of Allegiance law with a Nazi-style salute hasput the district’s student publications policy under review. OnAug. 6, a Colorado law went into effect, requiring students at public schools torecite the Pledge of Allegiance unless they had a note from their parents. TheAmerican Civil Liberties Union challenged the law. A federal judge issued atemporary injunction on Aug. 15, arguing the law violated teacher and studentfree speech. The Orange & Black student newspaper ran athree-page spread about the law because it was a hot topic of conversation amongstudents, said Mark Newton, the newspaper’s adviser. Newton said acouple of newspaper staff members were in the class where the boys protested thelaw in the beginning of the school year. The Orange & Blackeditorial staff thought a photograph of the students saluting would complementan article about the topic, Newton said.The decision to publish thephoto illustration was not taken lightly, Newton said. The editorial staff metfor three hours to discuss whether to run the photo. ”There werea lot of questions about how it would impact the boys [pictured in the photoillustration], the school, the newspaper and the community,” said LyndsayThompson, co-editor-in-chief of the Orange & Black.SophomoreHad Stine, one of the students saluting the American flag in the photograph, wasquoted by the Orange & Black as saying, ” [Fascism is] thegovernment imposing its will on you. It’s fascist to make us say thepledge.”The newspaper distributed 3,000 copies both on and offcampus on Oct. 14. Backlash against the photo was almost immediate, Newtonsaid.The newspaper received complaints from students, teachers andcommunity members who felt the photo was offensive. According to reports, someteachers refused to distribute the newspaper and even threw copies in the trash.Newton said he was disappointed that teachers would throw entire stacksof the Orange & Black in the trash and wondered whether they wouldgive the same scrutiny to school library or television materials.”In my mind, it’s censorship,” Newton said. ”Justbecause you don’t like the content of something it doesn’t mean youcan throw it in the trash.” Thompson said she wasn’tsurprised at the reaction of the students and teachers.”They havethe right to disagree just as much as we had the right to publish thephoto,” Thompson said.Newton said there have been no disciplinaryactions taken against any teachers or students. Newton said he thinks thedistrict will only review the publications policy but not changeanything.”[The district] is taking a few full days to analyze theevents so then it can be determined what issues, if any, need to beaddressed,” said Jeff Kirtland, spokesman for the Mesa County ValleySchool District 51.”My students had a very solid educationalreason for publishing it,” Newton said. ”I know in the end theyknew they were doing the right thing.”The district’s currentpolicy gives the student editorial staff control over the newspaper’scontent.”Student editors of school-sponsored publications shall beresponsible for determining the news, opinion and advertising content of theirpublications,” the district policy says.In addition, Colorado isone of six states with anti-Hazelwood legislation, which provides moreprotection of student speech than in most states. Earlier this month,the Orange & Black was named the best large high school newspaper inthe state by the Colorado High School Press Association.