TEXAS — Thestudent newspaper adviser at Alvin High School has been reassigned and anassistant principal is sitting in on each period of the newspaper class. Themove follows months of controversy over the content of The Clarion and claims of censorship by student editors.
Beginning next school year, Dana Strong will no longeradvise either the newspaper or the yearbook and will teach English classes atthe school. Assistant principal Karen Taylor is in the room for the remainingnewspaper class periods, monitoring students as they work on the final issue.
Principal Kathy Windsor confirmed she reassigned Strong butwould not say why, calling it a personnel matter. She said she has nevercensored the newspaper.
Student journalists at the school said a year full oftension came to a head this month when they published a “censored” issue of thepaper. In it, an editorial headlined “Windsorship Silences the Call to Truth”claims Windsor stopped students from publishing stories on multiple occasions.The rest of the issue contains prior stories the students said they got introuble for — with the word “censored” stamped on top.
Student photographer Audrie Sky Molina said the conflictbegan shortly after the start of the school year – Windsor’s first asprincipal. The newspaper staff wanted to write an editorial about analtercation involving Molina’s brother Race and the principal of an alternativeschool in the district.
According to local media reports, Race alleged the principalbody slammed him, putting him in the hospital, while trying to confiscate hiscell phone. The district said the principal was responding appropriately toaggressive behavior.
Strong said administrators told her they would “prefer” thatthe newspaper editorial focused more on the district cell phone policy. Later,Strong said Windsor came to the classroom and reviewed the editorial with thestudents, telling the editor what to change.
“She said that since the school pays for the newspaper, wehave to put in what the school wants us to put in there,” Strong said.
Windsor also seemed to suggest that the newspaper’s fundingwould be in jeopardy, Strong said.
“She said since they pay for it, we need to put in therewhat they want and that it could be a bad thing if we didn’t,” Strong said.“And, you know, intimated that the money wouldn’t be there and we couldn’t putout the newspaper.”
Windsor said she never told the students not to run theeditorial.
“That is not correct,” Windsor said. “The only thing I pointedout was some factual errors.”
At that same meeting, Strong and Molina said Windsorsuggested they run a list of sports scores in the next issue. The students saidthey opted to list wins and losses rather than the actual scores because theyfelt the numbers would make the teams look bad.
Three of the school’s volleyball teams and one of itsfootball teams had not won a game to that point.
“That paper, it hit the fan,” Strong said. “’How dare we putthat in, it made the football boys feel bad,’ the whole school was upset –there’s no commentary or anything, it’s just facts.”
The controversy and the conflict with Windsor continuedthroughout the year, Strong said. Earlier this spring, Strong said she wasnotified she had been reassigned after three years of advising at Alvin HighSchool.
Fed up, student editors ran the “censored” issue this month,“reprinting articles they had gotten in trouble for and been told they couldn’twrite anything similar to again,” according to a press release from the editors.
Windsor said the articles in question were ones that had“issues” she talked to Strong about but did not censor.
“How did I censor them if this is a reprint of somethingthat was already printed?” Windsor said.
After the issue came out, Windsor sent assistant principalTaylor to sit in on every newspaper class and will review the final issuebefore it goes to press.
As to why, Windsor said, “Just because I thought it would bebest that it get reviewed.”
Taylor said she has observed the newspaper students workinghard and doing the best job they can.
“I’m not looking for anything in particular, I’m just there to offer support,”she said. “And I’m there because Ms. Windsor asked me to be.”
Molina said she wants her adviser reinstated and the newspaperto be free from censorship.
Windsor, however, said she believes the views of a smallnumber of students are being inaccurately represented as those of the entirenewspaper staff.
The Clarion’sstaff box lists 12 students working on the publication. Of the four interviewedfor this story, all said they were supporting their adviser.
“I think that we’ve been robbed and lied to and I am prettymuch disgusted by all this,” said assistant editor Rachael Saunders.
Saunders said she has been called to Windsor’s office atleast eight times during the year and her mother has asked that it not happenagain without her being present.
“Learning that she (Strong) was getting taken away – I’m notgonna lie, I cried and it really broke my heart considering she’s been the onethat’s been there since day one,” said staff writer Paige Croxton.