Editor files grievance after Ill. school censors pro-discipline editorial

ILLINOIS — Theeditor in chief of the student newspaper at Richwoods High School is pushingback against censorship of a staff editorial, filing a grievance with theschool district and contemplating a lawsuit.

The staff of the student newspaper, the Shield, was forced to reprint its December issue because of aneditorial criticizing the administration.

In a staff editorial written by editor Daniela Vidal, thenewspaper criticized the administrators’ allegedly lax enforcement of schoolrules pertaining to dress code, cell phone use and discipline. Vidal said theadministration’s lack of enforcement was disrupting the learning process.

“On the surface, these rather minor infractions wouldn’tseem to be terrible bothersome,” Vidal wrote. “A few sagging pants, a couple oftoo short skirts, a little bit of cleavage, some texts sent in class… However,these infractions only help create an atmosphere of ‘I can do as I please andnot get caught.’”

The student body never saw the article. Vidal said PrincipalCindy Clark confiscated the newspapers and required it be reprinted without theeditorial.

“We had to redesign the page and got to print again,” Vidalsaid. “She just said she was shocked and that article wasn’t the correctrepresentation of what Richwoods was and it should not be distributed at all.”

According to Peoria Public Schools spokesman Chris Coplan,the cost of reprinting the paper came from the public relations departmentbudget.

Both Clark and Coplan declined further comment.

According to the school’s publication policy, “schoolauthorities may edit or delete material that is inconsistent with theDistrict’s educational mission.” Vidal said the newspaper now goes throughprior review.

The editorial board was called into Clark’s office todiscuss the article with her and the three assistant principals, Vidal said. Herfather, Heber Vidal, said he was not notified of the meeting and is angry thata minor would be called into the principal’s office without a parent beingpresent.

Heber’s lawyer, Richard Steagall, filed a grievance with theschool board on Monday.

“It made me feel that our opinion wasn’t important inrelation to what is our education, which is extremely important,” Daniela Vidalsaid. “She (Clark) made me feel like I was a liar and that I didn’t have anyfreedom of thought. That we were just a mouthpiece for the administration, andwe’re supposed to only be a positive image of the school and not critical ofwhat could be improved.”

In February, Vidal addressed the issue of censorship in a letterfrom the editor stating, “as you saw quit evidently in our November issue, theeditorial and ‘Our Opinion’ column was missing… Some may not agree with ourviewpoint. But that is why it is an opinion.”

Heber Vidal said he is awaiting the school’s reply beforedeciding if he will pursue legal action.