Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Burning' Issue: State Legislator Will Probe Shutdown of Student Paper

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Burning' Issue: State Legislator Will Probe Shutdown of Student Paper

Article excerpt

A high school newspaper in California was disbanded after it published a front-page photo of a student burning an American flag, triggering criticism that the administration was stifling free expression.

A state legislator has now promised to probe the issue.

Shasta High School Principal Milan Woollard said the school year's final issue of the student-run Shasta High Volcano was embarrassing.

"The paper's done," Woollard told the Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding. "There is not going to be a school newspaper next year."

The school newspaper also ran in its June 3 edition an editorial written by editor-in-chief Connor Kennedy that defended flag burning as speech protected by the First Amendment.

Kennedy graduated last week from the high school in Redding, about 160 miles north of the state capital. He told The Associated Press he chose the topic because he had just studied flag burning in a class on government.

"I'm deeply saddened, and I find it terribly ironic a high school newspaper would be shut down for exercising free speech -- particularly when the curriculum being taught was that this was free speech," Kennedy said in a phone interview Tuesday.

A press-freedom advocate said the student journalists were within their legal rights to publish the photo and editorial.

"I don't think any newspaper should ever be discontinued as punishment for things students have written, especially when what they've written about is the defense of free speech and what they have said is absolutely correct," said Terry Francke, general counsel of the nonprofit Californians Aware, which advocates for First Amendment issues. …

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