Indiana h.s. paper fights censorship by printer

It’s been a turbulent month for the Lake Central High School Scout.

Two of the student newspaper’s past three issues have been postponed, censored or subjected to prior review, said Editor in Chief Kristen Cameron.

The Nov. 23 issue, the fifth of the year, contained a center spread about teenage pregnancy, birth control options and STDs. According to Cameron, one of the stories quoted a student at another school who cited a rumored statistic at his school about female students at Lake Central.

After some discussion with Lake Central principal Sandie Platt, the newspaper was sent to the print shop, where Cameron said the print shop teacher, Jereme Rainwater, intercepted the issue and took it to Platt with his concerns.

After further discussion with Platt, Cameron said she agreed to remove the quote.

After consulting with the Student Press Law Center, the Scout editorial board wrote an editorial for the Dec. 17 issue, condemning the censorship and criticizing the administration for allowing Rainwater to review the paper before it went to print.

“In the Supreme Court ruling of Hazelwood School District v. Kulhmeier, principals have the right to review and censor in certain circumstances,” the editorial read. “Print shop teachers are never mentioned.”

In a meeting with Platt, superintendent Janet Emerick and the Scout editorial board, the students were told the editorial was libelous and could not go to print, Cameron said.

Emerick did not return phone calls for comment.

The students now feel their options for fighting the administration are limited, Cameron said.

“Because they’ve given Rainwater that prior review power we’re kind of stuck,” she said.

SPLC View: While infuriating and repugnant to any notion of sound journalism, there is – on its face – nothing unlawful with a principal delegating prior review authority to a printer with no journalism training or background. Of course, before he or she can actually censor something, the printer must comply with the same constitutional restrictions (dictated by either the Hazelwood or Tinker standards) placed on all school officials. Even though there may be nothing unlawful with professional educators permitting unqualified school employees to interfere in the editorial process, that does not mean it should be quietly accepted. Kudos to the Lake Central Scout staff for taking their case public and holding LCHS officials accountable – all with some wonderful holiday flair. In a column to the local newspaper, staff member Ashley Ladwig (with help from Zach King) spreads some hope and cheer to those of us in the student press community. It begins:

“‘Twas the day before Christmas break, and all throughout Scout,

Young journalists were stirring, because their paper wasn’t out.

The stories were written for this issue with care

But when pages were sent print shop wasn’t there