Freedom of the Press Suppressed in Tennessee HS

In a move sure to make members of the Bush administration proud, an Oak Ridge Tennessee high school principle named Becky Ervin has shut down the school newspaper and seized copies which had already been distributed.

Tennessee Independent Media Center reports:

Administrators late Tuesday searched through teachers’ rooms and desks and seized copies, they said. The inter-school mail system delivering copies was halted, and the newspaper returned. Bundles of papers were removed from teachers’ mailboxes, Grooms [the newspaper advisor] said.

Grooms said she was told to retrieve “all copies that went home. I picked up one copy from one student.”

The students don’t seem to be standing down, though.

“The school administration should realize they don’t have the power to censor our paper,” [the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Brittany] Thomas said, while fellow students gathered around her living room late Wednesday afternoon to hand-paint T-shirts they plan to wear to school on Monday in protest.

According to the Boston Globe, the issues at stake are tattoos and birth control:

The Oak Leaf’s birth control article listed success rates for different methods, and said contraceptives were available from doctors and the local health department. Superintendent Tom Bailey said the article needed to be edited so that it would be acceptable to all the school.

The edition also contained a photo of an unidentified student’s tattoo, which the student had not told her parents about, said Bailey.

”I have a problem with the idea of putting something in the paper that makes us a part of hiding something from the parents,” Bailey said.

And we can be sure this infuriated the control freaks even more:

However, this time a quote from a health department doctor explaining pregnant teens rights to privacy went too far.

“I don’t think we should be condoning anything that tries to suggest a school newspaper or a school’s mission is to keep things from parents,” Dr. Bailey said.

To the students at Oak Ridge High: We know what it is like to have to resort to samizdat news coverage. That’s why we run this website. Our presidential candidate was arrested last year, and I’ll bet most of you never even heard about it. Please bear in mind that many authorities at all levels will try to suppress journalistic expression. Journalism classes and school newspapers are supposed to teach students what it is like in the real world. The way things are going politically, this may soon be the case.

Contact: Principal Becky Ervin or Superintendent Thomas Bailey. Props.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to note this comment from Fark:

Fark censorship
  1. These students should start their own blog or site free of government control and report as they see fit.

  2. Even if I disagree with the content of the articles (don’t know, as I haven’t read them) the mere fact that they were suppressed gets my blood boiling. At least the school set a good example of what the real world is like, though.

  3. I am a student at ORHS. While I’m not one of the key players in this “rebellion” of sorts, I am friends with them, and as such I stand with them.

    Seeing this kind of support from the general public only strengthens our resolve, and as long as I have any say, I will not let this matter go unresolved.

    So, on behalf of the students here in Oak Ridge, thank you.

  4. Oliver,

    You are more than welcome, and let us know if there is anything we can do from here.

    Keep up the good fight!

    BTW, you wouldn’t be related to a reporter in north Alabama with the same last name, would you? She’s covered my on some political issues before.


  5. The one in Huntsville, not that I know of. However, I did live there for awhile, was born there, in fact.

    However, the best thing you can do, you’ve already done, spread the word. The more people know about this injustice, the better it will be.

  6. George, I’d opt for having the offender fired or suspended over renumerations. The community tax-payers shouldn’t pay for the mistake of some school administrator.

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