Fla. school’s staff pressures editor not to run column on good, bad teachers

FLORIDA— A Naples high school newspaper editor omitted his column about goodand bad teachers in the latest issue of the paper after receiving pressure froma school staff member and the school principal, who said he did not wantteachers to feel singled out. Renato M. Talhadas’ column, titled “WhenTeachers Go Bad,” did not run in the March 3 issue of Lely High School’s TheTrojan Epic. Instead, Talhadas decided to run the word “censored” in itsplace under the heading “Editor’s Column,” as suggested by his adviser.The column praised teachers who help students “wake up every morning andcome to school everyday.” Talhadas identified some of the “good” teachers, butdid not name any “bad” ones. The column also criticized teachers who complainedabout low pay and long hours. “If once they could get their lazy buttsout of their chair from checking e-mails and trading at Ebay, and actually teachthe class, I would be much obliged,” the column stated. Though PrincipalJerry Primus told Talhadas he liked his column and agreed with its content, hesaid it was poor timing to publish the column the same week as students took theFlorida Comprehensive Assessment Test, a statewide standardized test, Talhadassaid. A school staff member, who reviewed the column prior to publication, didnot want Talhadas to run the column, Talhadas said. “‘Change this,'”Talhadas said he was told by the staff member. “‘Let’s remove this paragraph.Let’s take this out.’ [My response was], ‘Wait up! You’re not letting my voicebe spoken here so I’m not going to let this be published at all.’ She wanted toapproach [it] as, ‘Let’s all go to school. Let’s all hold hands. Let’s all supportLely. Let’s all take the FCAT, and let’s all pass it.’ That’s not what I write.What I write are topics that people are too scared to talk about.”Thetiming of the principal’s and staff member’s request influenced Talhadas’decision not to run the column because the request was made the day before thepaper was to be sent to the printer, Talhadas said. The school was trying tocreate a positive atmosphere for students during standardized testing, adviserJackie Hagerman said. Had the article run when testing was over, it would nothave been a problem, she said. Primus said his request for changes hadnothing to do with the timing of the standardized testing. He said he askedTalhadas not to identify any of the teachers so they would not feel singled out.Had Talhadas had more time to change the column before the deadline, “the storywould have come out the correct way,” Primus said.The column’s absencefrom the paper prompted parents to contact Naples Daily News editor PhilLewis, who wrote a column about it March 7. In his column, Lewis initiallyspeculated that the missing column dealt with the recent arrest of three LelyHigh School students for allegedly plotting a school shooting. Lewis wrote thatwhen he was told the real reason for the column’s absence, he thought it wasludicrous. “If what’s written in the newspaper somehow takes away from theachievement test scores of the students, we have a real problem,” Lewis said.Talhadas doubts he will publish the column in the future.