Editorial in High School Paper Sparks Controversy

By: Carter Johnson Email
By: Carter Johnson Email

August 17, 2011

An opinion column in the May edition of The Mountaineer, Madison County High School's student-run newspaper, described the high school as falling apart at the seams.

Now, the paper's student adviser, Kate LaRoue, says that article could be to blame for the class falling apart at the seams.

“Talking is never as effective as actually seeing things happen,” said the former adviser who has moved to a new district for the upcoming school year. “And what were [the students] seeing happen? The exact opposite of everything we'd been talking about; the free press and the first amendment and all of those things.”

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC), a national organization that advocates for student free-press rights, has come to the defense of LaRoue and the school paper. The SPLC claims the article was pulled due to unflattering content.

Madison County Superintendent Dr. Matthew Eberhardt tells CBS19 he was shocked by the allegation that the editorial was suppressed due to content. He went on to say that the SPLC article siding with LaRoue and her students “contained a multitude of inaccuracies”.

Nonetheless, students on the newspaper staff say the administration took issue with their publication.

“They didn't like the negativity in our articles, so I guess they didn't want us downing the school. But all it was true,” said Jennifer Canavan.

“Anything that was thought to be mildly controversial was taken out [of the article] immediately,” added LaRoue.

Dr. Eberhardt admits the school is old and worn down – the county assessment of the building is fair or poor. However, he contends the problem is not the building, rather the fact that the students say they were censored.

Regardless, it's not the lesson LaRoue says she wanted to teach her students.

“I thought, what are they really learning from this? That someone can always take away your opinion or say it doesn't matter?” she explained.

LaRoue appears to be a casualty of the ongoing controversy. Students tell CBS19 she was told she wouldn't be teaching the class next year, prompting her to move to a different school district prior to the start of the new school year.

While Dr. Eberhardt says the school will continue to offer the “Desktop Publishing for Newspaper” class that she taught, students say they fear for the future of the paper now that Mrs. LaRoue is gone.

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