Pa. school’s policies impeding production of newspaper, student says

PENNSYLVANIA —- Members of the Avonworth HighSchool newspaper say administrators are creating policies that impede productionof the newspaper and have even threatened to cancel an independent journalismclass in an attempt to censor them, an allegation the administrationdenies.”We believe all of this has been done out of purespite,” said Josh Wilwohl, a layout editor for the Avonews. Wilwohl, along with four of the five other staff members, plans tosubmit a letter to Avonworth’s school board Monday night outlining theircomplaints.However, Principal Peggy Boden denies that there has been anyattempt to censor the Avonews and said the administration has changedpolicies to facilitate the school’s needs.”Someone has totell the truth here,” Boden said. ”No one has ever censored thesekids. I will not censor these kids.”According to Wilwohl, asenior, the problems began last week when he interviewed Boden andSuperintendent Valerie McDonald for an editorial he is writing for the nextissue of the paper. The editorial outlines how the school board is”educationally, fiscally and emotionally irresponsible,” hesaid.A day after the meeting, Wilwohl said the principal informed himthat Avonews staff members would only be allowed into the publicationslab with faculty supervision. The change, Wilwohl said, would make productionof the newspaper nearly impossible. McDonald and Megan Edmundson, thenewspaper’s adviser, did not respond to requests for comment.Bodensaid she made the decision to lock the publications facility to protectequipment purchased more than a year ago at a cost of$10,000.”Students are never allowed to be in places where they arenot supervised,” Boden said.However, Wilwohl said the decision toprohibit independent use of the lab is suspicious considering the newspaperstaff had open access to it for more than a year. Although Wilwohl said he hascovered controversial topics in his editorials in the past, this is the firsttime the administration has taken action against the newspaper. Wilwohlsaid that after objecting to the decision, administrators said they would movesome of the equipment into the library or a classroom so students could work onthe publication during the day. ”We are trying to make it so theyhave access. But, they have to be supervised,” Bodensaid.However, Wilwohl said moving the equipment makes it difficult towork with other staff members and allows faculty members to keep an eye on whatthe newspaper staff is writing.”[The changes] impede on ourability to get things done,” Wilwohl said. According to Wilwohl,Boden also informed him that Avonews staff members could only interviewteachers at designated times. Boden said she created the guidelinesbecause of two separate incidents in which a newspaper staff member interruptedinstructional time to interview a teacher. She said Avonews staffmembers could still interview teachers before and after school, between classesand during free periods.In addition, Boden denies the assertion that shethreatened to cancel the independent journalism class in which Wilwohl isenrolled.”That has never even come up in a conversation,”Boden said. ”We don’t cancel classes in the middle of theyear.”However, Wilwohl said he is not taking any chances and hopesthe school board will take action to restore Avonworth High School’sprevious publications policies. ”Hopefully, the school board cananswer some of our questions and take appropriate action,” Wilwohlsaid.Senior Daniel McKay, an associate editor for the Avonews,said he is signing the letter to the school board because he wants to keep thenewspaper’s integrity.”They shouldn’t be able topunish us for something someone writes,” McKay said.