ST. JOHN | The Lake Central School Corp. board heard impassioned arguments Monday night from a dozen students and parents who felt the removal last week of the student newspaper by administrators was an act of illegal censorship.
A newspaper editorial criticized the job performance of Lake Central High School's former football coach, Bill Melby, who resigned in early December but is still a teacher at the school. School officials said the paper was pulled because it was a disruption to the learning environment.
"The fact that the article and the newspaper was approved and then removed is absolutely against the law," said Michael Majchrowicz, editor-in-chief of The Scout.
"We respectfully request that our newspaper be put back on the newsstands no later than Tuesday, Feb. 16. We have done nothing but follow the rules and protocol. For the sake of our student rights we are asking the same in return."
Assistant Principal Sean Begley agreed the prepublication approval process needs review and that freedoms are paramount. However, the newspaper is not a place to air personnel issues, he added.
"I really respect your opinion," he said. "I take the rights of our country very seriously. But it's important for students and staff to show respect for each other, and that we maintain a safe and balanced learning environment.
"Our journalism students shouldn't be painting only a bright picture. There are things that can be appropriately debated that will develop our students into great journalists."
Bill Keith, a St. John native and 1982 Lake Central graduate, praised the students and supported their request to have the paper put back on newsstands.
"I'm proud to be part of a school system that raises kids like this," he said. "Truth conquers -- don't we all want the truth? I don't know the student, but I think he did a nice job. Thank God we live in a country where we can speak our mind and we have differing opinions. That's what checks and balances are all about."
Student Hanna Nava said the editorial was crafted by an intelligent editor-in-chief. "This was a breach of our First Amendment rights," she said. "We know what we want -- to express our opinions and stand up for what we believe. The Scout staff did nothing wrong. Removing the paper from the stands says that our opinions are unwanted."
Parent Janet Wartman said the controversial editorial was not the opinion of the entire newspaper staff. School Board President George Baranowski agreed the process broke down and they would review it.