Ga. high school drops class that produced student newspaper

GEORGIA — The first year of the Pebblebrook High School newspaper, Brookspeak, might be its last, after the journalism class which produced it was eliminated from the schedule because of budget cuts, although students claim it is because school administrators were concerned with the paper’s content.

Pebblebrook’s principal, Randolph Bynum Sr., told the paper’s adviser, Jonathan Stroud, in early May that the class would not be offered next year. Bynum said the paper could continue as an extracurricular activity after school.

Stroud said he was never told exactly why the class was being eliminated. Stroud said Bynum told a student journalist in an e-mail that due to teacher shortages, the school didn’t have the money to keep the class.

Bynum told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in May that although he had some problems with the “quality” of the paper, the reason for cutting the class was budget constraints.

Officials from Cobb County schools did not return calls for comment.

Brookspeak Co-editor in Chief Rebekah Martin said she believes the class was eliminated because the principal did not like the content of the paper, which included stories on teenage pregnancy and vandalism.

“I was horrified — because we had 50 students lined up to take the class next year,” Martin said. “I was so sad those students wouldn’t have the opportunity like we did to work on the paper.”

Although the students completed four issues of the paper during the year, Bynum did not allow the fourth issue to be published because he said students should be concentrating on finals, Stroud said. He believes the paper was barred from coming out because it contained an editorial that criticized Bynum’s decision to eliminate the journalism class.

Martin said the students thought it was important to write about controversial issues in the paper.

“We were trying to reach the students with the information that they needed to know,” Martin said. “We felt like we were getting somewhere.”

The paper had not been published in several years, but became active again when Stroud took the job this year.

Stroud said because the school has a program for the performing arts that requires students to stay after school every day, many newspaper students won’t be able to work on the paper if it is only offered after school.

“We’re going to make the best of it and we’re going to keep the paper going next year,” Stroud said. “But the paper just can’t be done at the same level in an after-school club.”

Pebblebrook sophomore Rachel Bradley, who enrolled in the class before it was canceled, said she hopes the school will decide to offer the class next year.

“I’m really hoping we can get this changed,” Bradley said. “We really want our class back.”

Bynum has since been promoted to area assistant superintendent of the Cobb County School District, and a new principal was recently appointed.

Stroud said he has not had a chance to speak to her about the journalism class. The students in the class have also started a web log, They are waiting to see if their class will be reinstated for next year, although Stroud said he is not sure if that is possible.

“The new principal comes from a school with a well-respected newspaper and we hope she sees the merits of scholastic journalism,” Stroud said.

–By Rebecca McNulty