Ind. high school administrators tell student journalist to remove quote from story about same-sex marriage

INDIANA — Three weeks after submitting an opinion article to the student newspaper about same-sex marriage, a New Prairie High School student was told she had to remove one of the students’ quotes from the article before administrators would approve it for publication.

Megan Pellow’s article for the November Cougar Chronicle about the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage quoted two students who supported such unions and one student who opposed them. On Friday, Assistant Principal Candida VanBuskirk told her to remove the quote from the student who opposed same-sex marriage because the student’s parents did not consent to their son being quoted in the paper, Pellow said.

Pellow agreed to remove the student’s quote because she didn’t want to be held liable for any consequences, she said.

“I don’t believe I should have to remove the names if I have received the consent of all of those who were quoted,” she said. “It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it’s better than not being able to publish it at all.”

Pellow said the school’s principal, Greg Dettinger, told her on Monday that, in addition to removing the quote from the student who opposes same-sex marriage, she also had to remove the names of the other students quoted in the column because he was concerned about bullying. Dettinger did not respond to a telephone request for comment.

The Chronicle staff will print the paper Nov. 10 without the quote from the student who opposes same-sex marriage but will have the names and quotes of the students who support it.

New Prairie United School Corp. Superintendent James Dermody said the article didn’t meet the standards for the classroom. He declined to elaborate on what standards Pellow’s story did not meet.

“It’s really a classroom issue that the classroom techniques weren’t properly followed, and we need to correct that,” Dermody said.

Pellow started a petition on Monday to pressure the administration to print the story as is. The students knew they were being quoted for an article, she said, and she provided both points of view on the issue for a balanced article. She said she was going to delete the petition after she agreed to remove the student’s quote.

“It is clear that the motivation behind censoring this article is driven by a desire to either satisfy higher administration,” Pellow said in the petition, “or prevent students from discussing matters that the administration would rather not acknowledge.”

SPLC staff writer Anna Schiffbauer can be reached by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.