Administrator stops student from distributing underground newspaper

OHIO — School officials have prohibited a high school student from distributing his independent newspaper at school, saying it would cause a substantial disruption.

Max Eden said Dwight Greer, an assistant principal at Beachwood High School, threatened him with suspension in early November if he attempted to distribute The Bison Blowhard on campus.

Greer, who did not return multiple calls seeking comment for this story, told a local paper, The Sun Press, that due to the Blowhard’s content there was a likelihood for disruption.

But Greer had not seen a hard copy of the paper before he made his decision, Eden said. He only had an idea about its content after word circulated among the student body about what the paper was going to cover.

According to the Sun Press, articles in The Blowhard described the football team as arrogant, said the homecoming queen election was rigged and described a dehumanizing hazing assembly, among other topics. The paper did not use any names.

Eden said he told Greer he believed he was within his rights to distribute the paper under the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court ruling. That ruling recognized that the First Amendment protects students’ free speech rights while at school.

Eden said Greer then told him that under Tinker, student speech can be censored if it is believed that the material will cause a substantial disruption.

Greer told Eden that "if you want to distribute it off school grounds then you have every right under your constitutional rights. But if you choose to distribute it on school grounds, you will be suspended, based on the likelihood that it will cause a disruption in the school," according to The Sun Press article.

To avoid suspension, Eden said he passed out 50 or 60 copies of The Blowhard at a local mall. He said there has not been a real reaction from students to the paper, except for classmates commending him for writing about issues that needed to be written about. The local library is also distributing the paper, he said.

Eden and his staff of three produced the newspaper on their own time. The newspaper is not sponsored by the school.

"I do plan on making another issue in January," Eden said, adding that he will take the paper to the administration to ask if it can be distributed at school, but that he will not make concessions over content.

If administrators want him to make changes he will just distribute the second issue at the mall as well, he said.

by Clay Gaynor, SPLC staff writer