Bus assault story gets middle school newspaper yanked

NORTH CAROLINA– Administrators are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss distributing an issue of a middle school newspaper they pulled last month.

On March 24administrators at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill seized copies of thestudent newspaper, the Cyclone Scoop,because they were concerned about the source of information for a crime storyabout a bus assault.

According to an article in the News and Observer, the story”Problems on Bus 96” said several students were charged withassaulting a bus driver in December. One of the accused students, who is aCyclone Scoop staff member, posed for apicture that accompanied the story.

Principal Valerie Reinhardt, whocould not be reached for comment, told theNews and Observer that she was out ofschool most of the day when the papers were distributed.

”Idon’t know all the facts, but my job is to protect the confidentiality ofminors,” Reinhardt told the local paper.

Stephanie Knott, a spokesperson for Chapel Hill-CarrboroSchools, said it is not district policy to withhold the names of minors who arecharged with crimes. The article probably did not violate any district policy,she said, but there was concern about how and where the student journalists gottheir information.

”The issue that had to be resolved was abouthow the information was obtained,” Knott said. ”If it came fromlegal records like court proceedings, then that would be fine. But we need tofind out if the information was overheard or if the student didn’tunderstand [he was] on the record when speaking with the reporter.”

The district was on spring break last week, so Knottsaid they have not been able to talk to students, the journalism teacher orReinhardt to determine where the information used in the article came from or ifthe student who was named understood his name and photo would be printed in the Cyclone Scoop.

Knott saidthe named student’s parent is not happy about her son’s name beingprinted in connection with a crime.

But there is no specific age ofconsent for minors talking to reporters, said Adam Goldstein, Student Press LawCenter legal fellow.

”The law says that a minor can consent toany lawful activity — even ones that upset his parents– when heunderstands the nature and probable consequences of his actions,”Goldstein said.

The Cyclone Scoopis a part of a journalism class at the middle school but is funded andprinted by the journalism department at the University of North Carolina-ChapelHill.

Knott said if it is determined the information was obtainedethically, the papers will be redistributed.