Indiana adviser’s job threatened after student’s gay tolerance article angers high school officials

AWoodlan Junior-Senior High School journalism teacher has requested a publichearing after school officials told her earlier this month that she may beterminated for a conflict with administrators who have accused her ofinsubordination and an inability to teach.
The conflict arose whenan opinion article calling for tolerance of homosexuality was printed in TheTomahawk on Jan. 19, prompting Principal Edwin Yoder to require future priorreview of all articles.
Amy Sorrell, adviser to The Tomahawkstudent newspaper and the school yearbook, is being represented by volunteerattorneys with the Ft. Wayne, Ind., law firm Eilbacher Fletcher, with a hearingbefore the school board currently scheduled for April 28.
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SPLCView: Sadly, Sorrell’s plight has become almost a rite of spring in recentyears as both high school and college student media advisers find themselves thescapegoat of administrators upset an adviser won’t do their dirty work ascensors. Fortunately, advisers have had some success in fighting back,particularly when they let students take the leadership role in censorshipbattles, can show an otherwise clean employment history and the evidence clearlyreveals the administration’s content-based motivation in disciplining orremoving the adviser. But the law under the Supreme Court’s 1988Hazelwood decision makes contesting these kind of efforts extremelydifficult.  (That is one of the reasons high school advisers have been suchstrong proponents of student free expressionlegislation.)


For a list of suggestions that will helpadvisers put themselves in the best possible legal position in such situations,check out our Adviser Checklist at: