Superintendent orders prior review of award-winning N.Y. newspaper to improve ‘quality’

In an effort to make the Amityville HighSchool newspaper more “professional,” school administrators are carrying outline-by-line editing prior to publication and have even appointed a secondadviser to work with the newspaper. 

But some students and teachersare calling the administrators’ effort an attempt to censor the school’saward-winning newspaper, the Echo.

“The district wants everythingto be positive, and I wish we lived in utopia, but it’s just not true,” WilliamOquendo, president of Amityville’s teacher union, toldNewsday.

When Brian De Sorbe became the district superintendent lastyear, he began reviewing each issue prior to publication after the newspaper ranseveral stories school board members reportedly disliked. But now, De Sorbe andother school officials are reviewing each article for grammar and spellingerrors, at times delaying publication of the newspaper.

De Sorbe did notreturn requests seeking comment for this story.

According toNewsday, in recent months school administrators have complained to theEcho editors and adviser about articles concerning school board candidatesand a review of the school production of the musicalGrease. 

In addition, the Amityville School Board appointed asecond adviser to the newspaper this month, the Massapequa Postreported.

Susan Amato had been the sole adviser to the Echo for 10years.

The decision to appoint a second adviser was made to bring anadded measure of professionalism to the Echo and expand the district’sprogram, School Board President Stephannie Andrews said.

But some in thecommunity believe there is an alternative motive behind the board’sdecision.

“Someone who has been running the newspaper for 10 years anddoing an excellent job by bringing an award-winning newspaper in this districtdoesn’t need any help to improve its status,” school board trustee DianeEgglinger told the Post

Oquendo told the MassapequaPost he thinks the board made the decision because Amato encourages studentsto “think for themselves.”

SPLC View: While editing forspelling, grammar and style errors to improve the “quality” of a paper may soundharmless enough, it rarely stops there. The line between grammar and substanceis a fluid one that far too many administrators abuse. Fortunately, courts haverecognized that and have ruled that editing under the guise of improving”quality” is censorship. It’s funny, too, how