With apologies to Kelly Clarkson, what doesn’t kill student editors makes them stronger

When students know they’ve been wrongfully censored by their schools, they commonly react in one of two ways. One way is to become alienated and cynical over a system that lets powerful people disobey rules without consequence, that teaches the First Amendment as an ideal but dishonors it in practice.

Then there is Elizabeth Sauchelli’s way.

Five years ago, Liz was an idealistic high-school editor in New Jersey, whose principal decided to “show the kids who’s boss” by insisting, for fanciful reasons bordering on nonsense, that entirely harmless articles be removed from the student paper. Liz fought back — with research and with facts. Like all bullies whose victim refuses to be a victim anymore, the principal backed down.

In a blog post on the Knoxville News Sentinel‘s website, Liz tells her story of how unjust treatment by her high school galvanized her into the committed and successful college journalist she is today.

I had never really stood up for anything I believed in before and often let big decisions be made for me … . More than anything though, it taught me that I was capable of fighting for something I believed in, no matter what the costs. I honestly believe that I would not be as passionate about journalism as I am today if I did not have to meet that challenge so early on.

Liz meant her story as encouragement for Krystal Myers, whose column about being an atheist in a school district that pushes a religious agenda was yanked from the Lenoir City, Tenn., High School student newspaper on the grounds that — in the words of the school superintendent — it might provoke “passionate conversations.”

But the story is a must-read for any student who is made to feel small, lonely and powerless by the school administrators whose job is to provide a supportive educational environment. A long memory, and a brave and eloquent voice, really are the best revenge.