Censorship damages newspaper value, hinders learning

IUS Horizon

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Jeffersonville High School recently suspended my favorite high school teacher, Kelly Short, in November of last year, and, last month, recommended her termination.

The reasons for the recommendation included immorality, insubordination and neglect of duty. However, the school board did not give Short evidence for their claims.

I would imagine these accusations have something to do with her refusal to let The Hyphen, Jeffersonville High School’s newspaper, be censored by James Sexton, principal of Jeffersonville High School.

By censored, I mean taking out strong opinions that oppose Sexton’s administration or stories that would make the school look bad, and, after looking for that, he might look for grammatical, spelling and style errors.

Suspending Short for standing up for her students’ rights is like fighting for peace — it is a teacher’s job to defend her students.

Even if high school papers have to abide by rules that college and professional newspapers do not have to worry about, they can still correct it.

Sexton is merely trying to censor the newspaper to make himself and his administration look good.

The issue arose when The Hyphen ran a story about the costs for new security measures for the school, which included four flat-screen TVs in Sexton’s office.

Sexton said the newspaper published inaccurate information about the amount the school spent on security equipment, and, because of this, he wanted to censor the paper prior to being printed.

Sexton has no reason looking over The Hyphen — even if he has a degree in English. Knowing a lot about the English language does not mean he knows anything about AP style.

According to a letter Sexton sent to Short, The Hyphen cannot be considered an open forum for students, faculty or community members because the students were getting credit to do the stories.

If that is the case, then not many newspapers outside of the professional world can be considered an open forum since some of them obtain credit for taking the course. This includes The Horizon and other college and high school newspapers.

During my three semesters on The Horizon, I have learned more than I have in any journalism class throughout college and high school, so how does Sexton expect the students on The Hyphen to learn anything with him breathing down their necks constantly?

Turning stories in and having them edited is a great way of learning AP style and deadlines, a major part of journalism in high school, college and professionally.

Does Sexton have so little trust in his students that he has to censor the newspaper that has been a part of the school for many generations?

It would appear so.

With Sexton’s review and Short no longer there, The Hyphen is doing a great job. They printed an issue completely in color, and I commend them for that.

However, the staff members should stir the waters with Sexton and not just let him have his way.

He cannot expel all of the students for expressing themselves, and, even if he did, they could fight it.

I understand he has to review the newspaper first, but maybe the students can write a highly opinionated piece that will get the gears turning in his head. Maybe he will see the wrong in censorship.

I hope they reinstate Short because she is by far one of the best teachers at the school. She knows a lot about journalism and has even more to teach to her students. I hope Sexton sees what he is doing to these students is wrong and not American.

When I was in grade school, they always taught me the principal was your pal, not your dictator.

By BRYAN JONES

Features Editor

jonesbry@umail.iu.edu