Statement against prior review prompts principal to halt publication

WASHINGTON — Editors and the principal of Everett High School have reached a stalemate over publication of the year’s first issue of the student newspaper.

Claire Lueneberg, an editor at the Kodak, said Principal Catherine Matthews will not allow the paper to be printed until the staff removes an editorial statement giving students control of the newspaper’s content.

Removing the statement would give Matthews the authority to review all material before it is published, Lueneberg said. The paper had been publishing the statement since last spring.

Lueneberg said there were never demands from past principals for prior review — student editors have made all the Kodak’s content decisions. She said nothing controversial led to the demand by the principal, nor has the paper been censored before, but being a student forum and avoiding prior review is important for the future.

"In case there was a controversial issue that administration said was inappropriate we could still tackle it," Lueneberg said of the editorial statement’s importance.

In the Herald, an Everett, Wash. newspaper, Matthews said she is enforcing a 7-yeard-old school board policy that allows, but does not require, principals to practice prior review. She said her predecessor’s practices were beside the point.

"School employees are required to uphold the school board policy. That’s my responsibility," Matthews told the Herald.

Gay Campell, communications director for Everett schools, said she agrees that Matthews is acting as a responsible school district employee.

"We have a very definite student newspaper policy," Campbell said. "What she’s doing is following district policy."

Campbell said the students’ forum statement goes too far by saying that editorial decisions are made only by the students. Because this is a class in which students are graded by adult teachers and earn credit, she said, the statement cannot be allowed.

"No one has questioned anything about the paper — just the statement," Campbell said. "I’m not sure if anyone has even looked at the content. I think this has been blown way out of proportion."

For their part, the students are searching for ways to get the policy changed.

Lueneberg said they are looking into presenting their case to the school board and finding out the procedure for revising the current policy or adopting a new one. She said they have also been in contact with an attorney.

Lueneberg does not plan on giving up, saying, "I really hope we can gain support and win this.”

Statement appearing in the Everett High School Kodak masthead:

The Kodak is a student forum for the student body of Everett High School. We are not subject to prior review by administrators, faculty or community members. Editorial decisions are made by the student editors-in-chief and the editorial board. Our right to free speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution and under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Article 1, Section 5. Student free speech is also protected by Everett High School District Policy 3220.

–By Clay Gaynor, SPLC staff writer