Administrators print paper without student editors’ knowledge

WASHINGTON — School officials printed and distributed an altered version of Everett High School’s student newspaper without the student editors’ permission or knowledge last week.

The administrators’ move is the latest in a fight between school officials and student editors over an editorial statement proclaiming the student newspaper a student forum that the publication’s editors want printed in the paper.

But the version of the Kodak passed out by school officials last Wednesday did not include the statement, said editor Claire Lueneberg. She said she was surprised and disgusted when she found out school officials went behind her back.

"It looks like crap – the paper is a disgrace to the Kodak," Lueneberg said of the issue. The paper is more than a month late, all the dates are wrong and the photos that were edited to be in color were printed in black and white, she said.

Gay Campbell, a school district spokeswoman, said the district’s move was not about Lueneberg and fellow editor Sara Eccleston’s battle to publish without prior review, it was about getting the issue out to students who have been without a newspaper this year.

The staff of the Kodak and Principal Catherine Matthews reached a stalemate in October when Matthews said the paper could not be printed with the statement.

Lueneberg said removing the statement gives Matthews the authority to review all material before it is published. The paper has been printing the statement since last spring.

Campbell said that after a school board hearing on Nov. 15 that upheld Matthews’ right to review the paper, the Kodak staff was given the choice of removing the statement or writing a new statement that met district policy in order to publish.

When the students decided not to accept either option, district officials went ahead and published the issue without the statement, Campbell said.

Matthews told the Herald, an Everett, Wash., newspaper, she is merely enforcing a seven-year-old school board policy that allows, but does not require, principals to practice prior review.

Lueneberg said the distribution of the altered issue caused confusion among Kodak staff members, many of whom thought the editors had caved to the district’s pressure to remove the statement.

"At this point we are planning on going underground with the paper," said Lueneberg, who is recruiting reporters to help start the new paper. It will still be called the Kodak, she said.

The fate of the official school newspaper remains unclear.

Lueneberg said publication could cease if changes are not made to the district’s policy. The superintendent’s decision to publish without the staff’s permission has undermined the students’ trust, making them wary of working on new material, she said.

The town of Everett is very tradition-oriented and many alumni who worked on the Kodak still live in the area, she said.

"It’s really upsetting thinking about a 106 year tradition disappearing," Lueneberg said. "I don’t think the community would favor the paper dying."

The statement the principal is objecting to reads:

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