Just a few days after a similar situation at a Missouri high school, the Lyman High School Greyhound yearbook in Florida withstood public public pressure to censor a spread. Some vocal Lyman parents were upset that the spread in question featured definitions for a variety of gender and sexual identities.
Thankfully, in both these cases, the school and district stood by the students, and the Student Press Law Center commends their courage and dedication to empowering student voices!
Just last year, The Greyhound yearbook staff stood up to attempted censorship over their inclusion of a spread also related to LGBTQ issues. In fall 2022, the Student Press Law Center awarded The Greyhound staff and current outgoing Editor-In-Chief Sara Ward our Student Press Freedom Award for their courageous advocacy in which they appealed to the school board, who ultimately sided with the students and prevented the censorship of their book.
“We didn’t do anything wrong,” Ward said about this most recent pushback from parents in a FOX35 interview. “We covered a full and fair representation, which is what I’m supposed to do, so I’m quite baffled and quite confused why this is a thing, but I’m gonna defend our book because I’m proud of it!”
Below is a letter SPLC’s Executive Director Gary Green penned to Lyman Principal Michael J. Hunter thanking him for supporting student press freedom at his school. (See PDF)
Dear Principal Hunter,
On behalf of the Student Press Law Center, I am writing to thank you for your support of the Lyman High School Greyhound yearbook staff and for your continued respect for their editorial freedom and yearbook content. As the nation’s leading experts on student media law and student press freedom, SPLC was thrilled to honor the Greyhound this past fall with SPLC’s inaugural
Student Press Freedom Award, but even happier to see that the Greyhound staff is trusted to make their own editorial decisions and record the complete story of the Lyman High School community.
Student media is about telling the stories of the student body, in all its forms, and learning the power and impact of journalism. The Greyhound staff — with the support of you, adviser Danielle Pomerantz, and others — have shown remarkable courage and dedication in seeking out and memorializing the full Lyman High School experience. They have also exemplified how to manage criticism and censorship and to stand by their decisions. They can do this because of your support. Many student journalists are censored in deference to community backlash, and they never learn how to manage or rebound from criticism. The Greyhound staff is lucky to learn these lessons with your support, and they are more prepared for the post-school world because you have trusted them. This is what true leadership — and a real-life civics education lesson — looks like, and we hope many other schools will follow your example.
This is especially meaningful for me, as the parent of a Lyman High School graduate. I am proud to have been a member of the community then, and am proud now to see the Greyhound staff seek out and reflect the experience of the entire Lyman student body — both the experiences everyone wants to remember, and the experiences some may not know enough about.
We look forward to the day when Seminole County Public Schools will stand in full support of SCPS student media and eliminate the burdensome and overbroad prior review policy that telegraphs distrust of student journalists and their work. We remain eager to work with the school district on that effort, and are available to you and your students at any time.
Thank you for your support of Lyman High School’s student journalists, and all you do for the Lyman High School community.
SPLC Executive Director
Florida isn’t a New Voices state, but advocates are working hard to change that! If you’re a Florida resident and believe students should be empowered rather than censored, join the movement!