MINNESOTA — Administrators at Richfield High School removed a student’s June 3 guest article that criticized the school’s open enrollment policy and its basketball team from the last issue of the student newspaper, the Spotlite, because it identified another student by name.
When the newspaper landed in the student’s hands, he approached Richfield Principal Jill Johnson, who said the student was upset. She consulted with other staff members before deciding to remove the article from the papers, she said.
The author of the article, then-senior Dustin Hinz, said he used the student as an example of how open enrollment, which allowed the student to transfer from Prior Lake High School and join the Richfield basketball team the same semester, is detrimental to students. He proposed that students transferring be made to wait one year before joining a varsity athletics team.
“He’s actually not even the problem,” Hinz, a member of the Richfield High basketball team, said of the student named in his article. “It’s the system that allows it to happen.”
Hinz’s article claimed he and other players were “shoved to the side” for the transfer student and some players had their time on the court “significantly reduced” as a result.
Johnson said she probably would have allowed the article if Hinz had not included the former Prior Lake student’s name in it.
“My overall feeling at the time and it still is,” Johnson said in an e-mail, “is that one of the boys was using the paper to settle the score with the other.
“I’m not going to allow the school newspaper to become a medium for students to get even with other students,” she continued.
Hinz said he was conscious of the student’s feelings and revised the article before turning it in for publication because he felt his first draft attacked the student more than the policy.
“Maybe by putting his name in there, it was kind of offensive,” he said. “But it just shows the facts. Everything in there is true, nothing is ripping him down.”
The manner in which the administration removed the articles only drew more attention to the article, Hinz added. Security guards retrieved the newspapers already distributed to students on June 3 and redistributed the newspapers without the article on June 6, two days before graduation.
“It was so reckless,” he said. “The security guards were just running around taking them out of people’s hands like they were taking guns out of our hands.”
When Johnson met with Hinz about the article she told him if he distributed any personal copies of the article he would be suspended and would not walk in the graduation ceremony, he said.
Johnson said Hinz did not cause any trouble after she explained why the article was removed but said she received e-mails and a phone call in support of Hinz. The Twin Cities Star Tribune published an editorial on June 10 saying the Richfield administration wrongfully censored the article.
“One of the biggest issues here is the failure of the adviser to adequately supervise this publication,” Johnson said. “The adviser did not bother to proof the paper before it went to print.”
The newspaper’s adviser, Bruce Wiebe, did not respond to phone calls or e-mails for comment, but in a June 5 Star Tribune article, he said he agreed with Johnson’s decision.
“The article Dusty wrote was an important one for high school athletics,” he told the Star Tribune. “It was just an unfortunate editorial oversight that the [Prior Lake student’s] name was left in it.”
Hinz graduated June 8 and said he hopes the policy is changed so that when he returns to Richfield its varsity team is comprised only of students who have grown up in Richfield.
–By Mike Hart