Mass. principal prevents paper from publishing articles critical of her policies

MASSACHUSETTS — After refusing to publish thestudent newspaper until changes were made to three articles critical of herpolicies, the principal of Salem High School is still declining to run theissue. The three articles, which were planned for the frontpage, address the school’s new bans on wearing hats and eating in class aswell as the lowered morale of the students.Members of the studentnewspaper, the Witches Brew, said in the Tuesday edition of The SalemNews that they reluctantly agreed to the changes requested by Principal AnnPapagiotas. The students said Papagiotas inserted explanations for the newpolicies, writing in one article that food was banned from classrooms because ofa mouse problem.Nevertheless, the newspaper still has not been publisheddespite protest from students on the staff.”[The WitchesBrew is] the student view,” co-editor Todd Graham told the SalemNews. ”It’s our voice, and this is what the paper is meant tobe.”Neither Papagiotas nor Superintendent Herb Levine could bereached for comment.However, in The Salem News article, Levinedefended the principal’s decision.”The school newspaper isstrictly and only in the authority of the school principal,” Levine said. ”I believe that she’s not only doing the right thing, butshe’s doing it the right way.”Levine said Papagiotas is notallowing the newspaper to publish because some of the opinions in the articlescould be qualified as ”disruption or disorder” that might sparkarguments and fights. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v.Des Moines Independent Community School District that public school authorities are onlyallowed to regulate student expression that materially disrupts the schoolenvironment. School authorities cannot base a regulation on the fear ofdisturbance.However, in the 1988 Supreme Court ruling in HazelwoodSchool District v. Kulhmeier, the court said a school is permitted editorialcontrol over the content of a school-sponsored newspaper if school officials canshow that it is ”reasonably related to legitimate pedagogicalconcerns.”But in 1988, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted theMassachusetts Student Free Expression Law to provide public high schools in thestate with protection against censorship at school, thus undoing the impact theof Hazelwood decision.