Suspended Arkansas School Paper Shares Censorship Concern

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) — Students have complained that heavy-handed oversight of their now-suspended northwest Arkansas school newspaper could result in censorship and jeopardize their journalistic integrity.

Students representing Har-ber High School's newspaper told the Springdale School Board on Tuesday that they worry the district will require all future work to be reviewed by an administrator before publication, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The Springdale school district suspended the Har-ber Herald newspaper and ordered students to take down an article in November investigating the transfer of six football players to a rival high school. The district allowed the months-long investigation to be re-published on the newspaper's website this month. The article alleged that the students transferred for athletic, not academic reasons, which would violate district policy.

Superintendent Jim Rollins said a committee of journalism teachers is creating a policy to address how student publications are handled.

Rollins had previously called the article "intentionally negative, demeaning, hurtful and potentially harmful" to students, but has since said that he understands the young journalists' perspective.

Student Madelyn Stout, who is editor of the school's yearbook, said administrators may have tried to suppress the story.

"In doing this, you went from being the protector of the journalists at Har-Ber to our bully and to our censor," she said.

Stout said administrative review before publication jeopardizes students' journalistic integrity and would lead to stricter deadlines to get work approved.

"But also, it takes away our learning experiences for our careers, because we're not going to have to do this in the real world," added Halle Roberts, editor of the Har-ber Herald. "There's not going to be someone standing over us saying: 'Well, that might hurt someone's feelings, we can't put that in the press.'"

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