N.Y. school board reverses newspaper censorship, maintains limited distribution

NEW YORK — The editor-in-chief of Long Lake Central HighSchool’s student newspaper addressed the district school board Feb. 11about the reason for censoring several articles in the January edition and thehalted distribution of the paper to the community.

Long Lake Central School District Superintendent, Mary Jo Dickerson,removed an editorial critical of a Harvard University admissions representativewho spoke at the school and an article detailing the history ofValentine’s Day that included Biblical quotes about love from the Januaryedition of the student paper, the Orange & Black.

When Orange & Black Editor-in-Chief Kaylie Miller questioned theschool board about the censorship at the Jan. 14 meeting, the board privatelyruled that the newspaperwould no longer be distributed as an insert inthe school’s community newsletter.

At the Feb. 11 meeting Miller addressed the school board about thecontinued censorship of the articles and the lack of student interest in thepaper now that it has been removed from distribution to the community.

When the paper was distributed to the community, “the kids got moreexcited about it because there were more people reading what we were putting inand they got to show off their work,” Miller said.

Many community members came to the school board meeting to support thefreedom of the student paper. More than fifty people came to the meeting,compared to a typical attendance of four or five people, said Kimberly Miller,Kaylie’s mother and a Long Lake Central School Board member.

“I was really surprised, in a good way,” Kaylie Miller said.

“I didn’t think it meant that much to that many people. They told meto keep fighting for it and what I was doing was right.”

Other members of the community also questioned the school board at themeeting about why the articles were censored. One member asked why a quote fromthe First Amendment was removed from the front page of the January issue,Kimberly Miller said.

According to Kaylie Miller the School Board President, Hallie Bond, agreedto allow the students to publish the censored articles in March’s issue.However, the school would continue to print and distribute the paper only withinthe school.

“I feel as a taxpayer I want to see what is going on at the school, Iwant to see the kids grow in their life and in their opinions,” said BetsyComeau, a former Long Lake Central Schools teacher who spoke at the January andFebuary school board meetings about the limited distribution of the paper.

The Orange & Black is now only available in the school’slibrary, computer room and a handful of teachers’ classrooms that requesta copy of it, Miller said. The student population K-12 at Long Lake CentralSchool is 44.

The school board’s reasoning for halting the distribution to thecommunity is to allow the students to write what they want; however, the contentis still reviewed by Dickerson before print, Miller said.

Dickerson originally told the Orange & Black staff that theeditorial was removed because it reflected poorly on the school, the people thatorganized the event and Harvard University itself, Miller said. Dickerson alsotold the staff that the Valentine’s Day article was removed on advice fromthe school’s attorney.

Dickerson has not returned multiple calls and e-mails requesting comment onthe matter.

“Anyone who can’t identify that as a problem hasn’tstudied the American form of government closely enough,” Adam Goldstein,attorney advocate at the Student Press Law Center, said about the school’scensorship and halted distribution of the paper.

After the meeting on Feb. 11 Miller said she is happy that the paper isallowed to print the censored articles and hopes that the school will not censorsimilar articles in the future. However, Miller is still discouraged that thepaper will not be distributed to the community.

“They feel like they got rid of the problem that they were gettingin trouble for [censorship] and if the articles are not in the public eye theywon’t get in trouble,” Miller said. “I think they think thestudent newsletter is more of a hassle than something that everyone enjoys, Idon’t think they realized how much the public liked readingit.”