John Tyler Principal Censors Student Paper - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/21/04 - Tyler

John Tyler Principal Censors Student Paper

Room A-10 at John Tyler High School was empty today. The journalism students who normally fill the classroom were told there would be no last issue of the student newspaper.

The Lion's Tale was ready to go to press yesterday with some articles featuring Principal Dr. Aubrey Todd in a not-so-favorable light.

Managing Editor Shunte Andrews wrote in her editorial, "We feel as if he should be reassigned to another school."

Yet, in another article, she praised Todd's work, stating, "John Tyler's environment has improved tremendously over the past 2 to 4 years."

"The rights of a journalist of my whole staff have been violated," Andrews said. "We can't voice our opinions, which is unfair to us."

But Dr. Todd made his stance clear in an email to Quantalane Henry, who oversees the paper. He wrote: "The paper is not approved for printing until I have given it my final approval."

Todd also added that he wanted any headline about him to read: "The Legacy of Dr. Aubrey Todd."

Two students interviewed two former John Tyler teachers, who left the school after Todd took over as principal. Valencia Golden, a junior, quoted Mrs. Freda Harder as saying, "There were a few years in which the true JT spirit was damaged."

"It's just telling the truth about the matter," Golden said. "I mean, news is good and bad, so why not? Why can't we publish the story?"

According to the Student Press Law Center, school officials are not allowed to censor student publications.

"We've had just an ongoing struggle all year long," Henry said. "The students, their voice has not been heard."

Todd declined to appear on camera, but told us, "Given the gravity of this situation, any story regarding my tenure should be done in a way that reflects the accomplishments and achievements of what I've done."

Once we began to investigate, there was a turn of events this afternoon. The Director of Secondary Education, Dr. Karen Raney, gave the go-ahead to include all of the articles. The paper won't be printed before the end of the school year, but will be available in time for graduation.

"I guess he doesn't want nobody to know about it, but it's all out now," Emma Molina, a staff writer, said.

The students just hope the next principal doesn't take away their First Amendment rights.

The student newspaper usually charges readers 25 cents per copy during the school year. But now, the school will give out the paper at graduation for free. And for those who don't attend graduation next Friday, Dr. Raney says she will try to mail each student a copy.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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