Records show opposition to Lyman yearbook overblown

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A tense public battle over the content of a Seminole County, Florida, high school yearbook this summer was overblown, according to public records obtained by the Student Press Law Center. 

Just two parents took Seminole County Public Schools up on its offer to request a refund of the Lyman High School yearbook The Greyhound, as shown by documents released by the district in response to an open records request. No one requested a reprinted yearbook without the two-page spread at issue, which featured LGBTQIA+ students’ stories and defined certain terms related to gender and sexual identity.

Vocal opposition to the spread made local and national headlines and, in June, was the focus of a four-hour school board meeting described by the yearbook’s student editor as “intense and intimidating.” Opponents objected to what they deemed content too mature for teenagers, though it was unclear how many of them were Lyman parents.

“Student journalists work hard to tell the truths of their peers, for their peers,” SPLC Executive Director Gary Green said. “That the students faced national controversy and the possible removal of stories about their peers based largely on the objection of adults outside the school community underscores the senselessness of student media censorship and the need for robust student press freedom laws. The Student Press Law Center applauds the Lyman student journalists for standing up for their First Amendment rights and urges the Seminole County School Board once again to make clear the independence and freedom of the student press. If journalism bowed to the objections of a few, many important stories would never be told.”

After the June school board meeting, SPLC expressed deep concern for the repeated censorship threats and the intimidation of the Lyman student journalists. 

The Greyhound staff was accurately and thoroughly reporting on the school community and culture at Lyman High School. Removing the spread from the yearbook is a clear violation of the staff’s student press freedom and it teaches the wrong lessons about leadership, journalism and the role of a free press in democracy,” SPLC Executive Director Gary Green said in June.

The spread highlighting LGBTQIA+ students published in The Greyhound.
The spread highlighting LGBTQIA+ students’ stories published in The Greyhound.

In 2022, The Greyhound staff won SPLC’s High School Student Press Freedom Award for successfully challenging another effort to censor their work. Administrators had ordered them to cover their reporting of a student walkout protesting the Parental Rights in Education Act (commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law) with stickers, but after strong advocacy by the students, the school board reversed the censorship. 

Nationwide, SPLC staff attorneys have fielded a growing number of calls to the organization’s free legal hotline from student journalists facing censorship over their coverage of the LGBTQIA+ community. In another example, a Nebraska school district currently faces a lawsuit for censoring and then shutting down a high school student newspaper for publishing stories covering the LGBTQIA+ community.

As these and other threats to student press freedom increase, SPLC will continue to answer every call to its hotline, monitor censorship cases and urge school administrators in Seminole County and beyond to stand up for an independent and free student press.

Learn more about student press freedom at Lyman High School

The Student Press Law Center is the nation’s only legal organization devoted exclusively to promoting, supporting and defending the First Amendment and free press rights of high school and college journalists and their advisers. SPLC operates a free, confidential legal hotline and offers legal training and resources for students across the country. To improve the legal landscape, SPLC also provides training and support to the grassroots New Voices movement, seeking state-based legislative support for student press freedom. SPLC is a nonpartisan nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. 

CONTACT: Josh Moore, Assistant Director, Student Press Law Center, (202) 785-5450