Nebraska school shuts down student newspaper after LGBTQ publication

Author: Yuvi August 29, 2022 Nebraska school shuts down student newspaper after LGBTQ publication

On March 31, the first period bell sounded at Northwest High School in Grand Island, Neb., when the principal went straight to a journalism class adorned with punctuation marks to deliver a new rule to administrators.

The students, at least three of whom were transgender, were ordered to use names given at birth for the byline because it was “controversial” to use their preferred names, according to an alumnus present in the class and Student Press. According to the lawyer of Law Center.

In response, student journalists dedicated their final issue in June to LGBTQ issues, writing two columns on the topic and a news article about the origins of Pride Month. Then, after publication, the school retaliated, said student Press Law Center attorney Mike Hiestand.

The administrator and superintendent of Northwest Public Schools, Jeff Edwards, shut down its newspaper program in June, prompting student journalists and press freedom advocates to condemn the move as censorship.

“I think they said that if they can’t stop it, can’t control it, they’re going to get rid of it,” Mr Haystand said of school officials.

The program’s abolition and the student newspaper, Viking Saga, were first reported by The Grand Island Independent on Wednesday. The paper, which had about 15 students on staff, had been in print for 54 years at Northwest High, which has about 700 students and is the district’s only high school in Grand Island, about 95 miles west of Lincoln, State. It is a small town. Capital.

Mr Edwards and former principal Tim Krupicka did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment last week. Mr Edwards told The Independent that cutting the program was an “administrative” decision.

Northwest Public School Board vice president Zach Mader declined to comment last week. But he told The Independent that there were talks of “dismantling our newspaper” if the board deemed the material “inappropriate”. He said that when the final issue came up, “there was a bit of animosity between some.”

“There were editorials that were essentially, I guess what I would say, LGBTQ,” Mr Mader told The Independent.

Max Kautsch, a First Amendment rights attorney who works on media law cases in Nebraska and Kansas, said by phone that Mr Mader’s comments were evidence of a certain point of view and discrimination against censorship.

“The objectives are not a mystery,” said Mr. Kautsch. “It is intended to quell the opinion of students who feel positive about the LGBTQ movement.”

The shuttering of the paper was the latest example of students clashing with school officials, demanding a halt to the distribution of yearbooks or the publication of articles specifically dealing with LGBTQ issues.

In May, school officials in Longwood, Fla., ordered stickers to be placed on a photo spread in the Lyman High School yearbook showing students protesting a new state law that limits sexual orientation in some elementary school grades. and prohibits classroom instruction and discussion about gender identity. ,

Last August, school officials in Arkansas removed a sprawling two-page review from a high school yearbook that chronicled the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd and the 2020 election.

“It’s something we’re definitely seeing more of,” Mr Heystand said.

At least 16 states have laws that aim to protect school publications from interference. A similar measure died this year in the Nebraska Legislature.

Marcus Pennell, 18, is a transgender man who was among the students in the newspaper class at Northwest High this spring. He graduated this year and said by phone that the administrator’s decision to close the school’s newspaper was disappointing.

“To be honest, I felt very defeated,” said Mr. Pennell.

He said his journalism teacher, Kirsten Gilliland, who declined a request for comment last week, told the students this news in June: “I don’t know who, or exactly why, but that’s what happened.”

In the final issue, which featured two rainbows on the front page, Mr Pennell wrote an editorial, printed with Meghan’s name given at birth in accordance with the school’s new policy. In it, he discusses Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, writing, “The more resources students have to express what they are feeling in words, the more resources they can use for anything, or any person.” The more prepared you are for what life throws at them.”

Students who had enrolled in journalism class were placed in other classes, Mr Hiestand said. Mr Pennell said a friend of his had been turned into a random “animal science class”.

It was unclear whether the students and their parents planned to pursue litigation in the hopes of restoring the newspaper and journalism program. Mr Highstand said it was “something that is being considered, but I think there is a way out.”

Mr Pennell said he felt bad for the students who may never experience the thrill and pressure of deadlines inside Northwest High.

“It would be nice if the paper could come back,” he said. “But obviously it’s out of my hands and out of our hands.”

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at

29 August, 2022, 5:13 pm

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