What I found interesting was Hiestand’s quote that the school officials basically told them, “We’re not going to listen to what the law says in our state, and we’re going to do what we want.” It is a frustrating quote, and one that is fully believable. Isn’t the stereotype for school boards that they shut up student journalists any time an article is published that makes the district look bad? Isn’t it the stereotype for southern states like Arkansas to care more about football than anything else in education?
This story reminds me of a story my high school law and economics teacher told during our unit on the Bill of Rights. Long ago, before any of our class came to the high school, a student journalist published an article in the school paper that the school board didn’t like and made her remove it. She brought it to court. I can’t remember on what grounds exactly the trial finished, but I remember my teacher said she did not pursue any more appeals after some point, even though it was her right, because it seemed like too much cost and hassle over a school paper article.
Schools reserve the right to restrict certain student rights if they interfere with education. For example, my high school was the home of countless banned books but the librarian drew the line at “Fifty Shades of Grey” on the grounds that it didn’t have enough educational merit to warrant the inappropriate subject matter. But keeping out or limiting access to inappropriate books in a library is different than preventing student journalists from publishing truthful articles on wide-impacting events. Just like few people had good things to say about the Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina, if few people had positive news to share about the football players transferring from Har-Ber High, it is not the fault of the journalists for reporting a mostly negative article. You can’t get an equal amount of good and bad opinions when all you have is bad news.
Source: Har-Ber Herald