The principal of McNeil High School in Austin pulled last month’s issue ofthe student newspaper because of an article about drug use on campus.
An article in the November edition of the Trail Blazer reported thatstudents dealt and used drugs on and around campus and that an administrator hadturned a blind eye to drug deals. The article, titled “Drug use common atMcNeil,” was largely based on interviews with two unidentified students whoclaimed to be drug dealers.
In an e-mail sent to parents and faculty, Principal Cindy Doty said sheconfiscated the issue because the article contained inaccuracies and because ittook information from two school counselors out of context.
Theresa Proctor, the newspaper adviser, said she reviewed the article andrecommended some changes but thought it was “overall an okay article.”
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SPLC View: Once again, an administrator chose the nuclear option— confiscating a newspaper — and leaving her students with anotherdistressing civics lesson on the value of a free press. If the newspaper printedinaccurate information — and, in fact, it appears that any fault here lieswith the school officials that provided the information, not the studentnewspaper staff — there are tried and tested remedies: a correction orretraction, letters to the editors or a guest column, to name a few. As for theuse of anonymous sources, it’s hard to see how a reporter that talks to campusdrug dealers is going to get those interviews any other way. And of course thestudent reporter didn’t reveal her sources to the principal; she had made apromise that she was ethically bound to keep. School officials must be made tounderstand that pulling newspapers off their racks should be the very lastresort — not the first — and should never be an option when tryingto hide bad news.