Ill. school refuses to allow students to air video tribute of deceased student

ILLINOIS — Three student reporters were kicked out oftheir broadcasting class because they attempted to air a video tribute of adeceased student on the school’s student-run television station against theschool administration’s orders. Homewood-Flossmoor High School seniorsHeather MacLeod, Jessica Daley and Derek Wians created a video tribute for apopular student who died in March. MacLeod said a broadcasting adviser did notthink the tribute was a good idea, even though students said a video tribute had been previously made for another student who died. The adviser spoke with Principal VonMansfield, who nixed the idea, MacLeod said. MacLeod said the studentsare seeking a court order to return to class, and they plan to sue the school onthe grounds that their First Amendment rights and due process rights wereviolated. Though Viking Television is student-run, Mansfield toldstudents they could not air the video tribute because grief counselors told himthat airing the tribute would be harmful to students who were unfamiliar withthe student, said David Thieman, the school’s spokesman. Thieman did not explainhow the tribute would be harmful to students. The school did give studentspermission to create a tribute for the deceased’s family, Thieman said.Wians said he wanted to air the tribute because — aside fromproviding grief counseling — the school did nothing to honor the deceasedstudent. There was no moment of silence, as had been done in the past for otherstudents who died, Wians said. Because the administration does notpreview broadcasts, the students added the tribute to the end of the April 2broadcast against the principal’s orders, MacLeod said. But the studentbody never saw the tribute because Viking Television did not air on April 2. That afternoon, school officials told the student broadcasters they were kickedout of the class for insubordination, MacLeod said. The students will notreceive a grade for the work they completed this semester, but a “P” for passingwould appear on their transcripts, MacLeod said. Administrators told thestudents that had the tribute aired, it would have caused friends of thedeceased to cry and that other students would beat up the students who werecrying, MacLeod said. “This is not right at all,” MacLeod said. “Wedidn’t understand why weren’t allowed to [air the tribute]. [We] are there toserve the school. [We] felt an obligation to serve the school. [The videotribute] is what we could do best” to help students grieve. Wians saidhe was furious for being removed from the class because he put so much time intothe broadcasting program during the past three and a half years. MacLeodsaid students appealed the administration’s action to assistant principal PamelaAllen-Tucker. The school denied the appeals. MacLeod said she does notregret attempting to air the tribute.”It’s very important that we make[student’s rights] clear to the school, and [the] school needs to startrespecting students,” MacLeod said.