New Jersey high school officials “fix” student’s opinion of curriculum changes

Pinelands High School student Andrew Resch claims an opinion article he submitted on Dec. 17 to his student newspaper was “sliced apart” by an administrator who drastically altered it.

In his article, “Un-College Prep,” Resch criticized the Pinelands Board of Education’s decision to discontinue double periods of lab sciences. After submitting his article to PHS principal Thomas Procopio, Resch said, his article was altered so the opinion reflected the administration’s, not his own. Sentences had been deleted and replaced with ones the administrators told him were “factually correct,” he said.

“At this point in time, anyone on the college prep science track will be deprived of lab time for complicated experiments and lab experiences that will help students in college,” Resch wrote. The sentence was one of six that were removed from Resch’s article.

In its place, the new article, renamed “Science Department Revamps,” included statements such as the following:

“The administration has ensured the masses that there will be no loss of instruction because of these changes,” the administrator’s added sentences read. “The administration spent the last three years figuring out a way to accommodate the growing population of students in the district, and for now, this seems to be the best approach.”

Resch said that because the article no longer reflected his opinion he asked that his name be removed. Resch’s name was replaced with “staff.”

Resch appealed at a board meeting on Jan. 27 by giving the school board copies of his original article and the altered one. Resch spoke at the meeting, quoting a letter written on his behalf by the Student Press Law Center.

“The law prohibits school officials from censoring simply because they disagree with the particular viewpoint being expressed, which certainly seems to be the case here,” Resch read from the SPLC’s letter.

According to district superintendent Detlef Kern, the school board will not rule on Resch’s article because the incident occurred as part of the class instruction.

Resch does not believe the situation has been resolved.

“None of the [administration] seem to want to talk to me,” Resch said. “But maybe once they realize the Student Press Law Center [is on my side] they might want to talk to me-it might scare them into talking.”

SPLC View: As always, one can only be amazed and saddened by the utter lack of respect for or even, apparently, a basic understanding of the principles of free speech by some of our nation’s school officials. Not content to simply censor this student’s opinion column, school officials decided to hijack it and turn it into administrative propaganda. Most would agree that civics education is a fundamental component of the public education system. One wonders if administrators at Pinelands High School might have forgotten in which country they are supposed to be preparing their students to live.