Update: Nine days after it was taken down, school officials at Texas High School in Texarkana, TX, allowed Tiger Times Editor in Chief Doug Kyles to repost his editorial criticizing the school’s use of trained drug dogs, which he wrote “facilitated an environment of fear and distrust” in the school. Kyles said he reluctantly agreed to changes pushed by administrators, which he still believes were unnecessary, in order to get the article reposted.
“I certainly didn’t expect the school to go this far to silence student voices.”Doug Kyles, Tiger Times Editor in Chief
Doug Kyles, Editor-In-Chief of the Tiger Times at Texas High School worked tirelessly on an editorial about his school increasing K9 searches of student vehicles, and the “environment of fear” this policy created among the student body.
He knew it was important. He knew it would be scrutinized by his administration.
So he did the work — researched the issue, checked his facts and carefully edited the piece.
Having done their due diligence, Tiger Times published the editorial on Friday, April 29. It was censored the same day.
A school administrator told the newspaper advisor to remove the article from the website, claiming it was “disruptive.”
Let’s be clear. The editorial was not “disruptive” by legal standards. The school tried to bury it because it was unflattering. Kyles took issue with a school policy and created a thoughtful, well researched opinion piece arguing his point. His big “disruptive” call to action? Encouraging students to talk to the school counselor if they need help.
That’s not a valid reason to censor the editorial.
“The First Amendment makes clear that public school officials can’t censor otherwise lawful
student speech simply because they think it makes the school look bad,” Hiestand said.
Kyles released a press release on May 3, explaining the staff’s side of the story and their determination to fight this censorship until the school allows them to republish the editorial in full.
“They want a public relations newsletter that is full of happy stories,” reads the press release. “Well, the fact is we are a newspaper. We report the news — and not all news is happy news. Myself and many others think Texas High School can be better than it is. That’s all I was and am trying to say. And — as students of THS affected by the decisions made here — I think we should all be allowed to say so.”
He’s right. Student journalists should be encouraged to report on issues of real concern to their peers, even if the result is criticism of the school.
Student journalists and advisers with New Voices Texas have been working diligently to restore and protect the freedom of the student press – and prevent censorship like this from taking place. Learn more about New Voices Texas here. For more information on New Voices in your state, visit SPLC.org/new-voices/.
If you experience censorship, contact SPLC’s legal hotline. We’re here to help.