Mich. principal withholds critical editorial from student newspaper

MICHIGAN — An editorial criticizing new suspension policies atLoy Norrix High School in Kalamazoo, Mich. is stagnating on the desk ofPrincipal Johnny Edwards.

Edwards is withholding the article from publication but has not given anexplanation for his actions. The article, “Are Suspensions Necessary?,”criticizes the excessive use of out-of-school suspensions.

“We think that he felt he was being attacked because the article doespoint-blank state his name and his policies,” said Renee Macdonald, co-editor ofKnight Life, the student newspaper.

“Initially, he said it was because he disagreed with her opinion,” saidMacdonald, referring to Edward’s decision to stop the article from printing. Theschool has a practice of requiring administrator review beforepublication.

Later, the editors were told there were “factual inaccuracies” in thearticle, and so they fixed the errors, resubmitted the article to Edwardsfor approval and are currently awaiting a response, according to Macdonald. Theyrequested a response by Jan. 7 and had not received one at press time.

Anne Brown, who is also co-editor of the newspaper, said Edwards felt theeditorial crossed the line.

“His main concern was that he felt there was a difference between criticismand negativity,” Brown said.

Brown said the newspaper adviser, Tisha Pankop, was told by Edwards to”disassociate” from them “in terms of talking to us about this issue.”

The Kalamazoo Public Schools student publication policy limits the basis onwhich school officials can supersede the editorial judgment of the students,which only includes speech that is “obscene or sexually inappropriate,””libelous,” encourages “disruptive action,” or violates the non-discriminationpolicy.

Brown and Macdonald both believe this is an act of censorship.

“I feel this is censorship in the strongest way possible,” Macdonald said.”I personally have re-read and read and read the article over and over againtrying to find something in it that would constitute proper censorship due toour school publication policy.”

Brown and Macdonald are planning to present the issue to the school boardlater this month.

“Our job is not to just print something that is good or positive about theschool system,” Brown said. “My full intention is getting the article printed,and that’s my main goal.”

Edwards and Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice did notreturn calls for comment by press time.