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November 30, 2009: Chicago-area high school cancels edition of student newspaper

Stevenson High School

The CBS television affiliate in Chicago reported Nov. 20 that officials at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire canceled an issue of The Statesman student newspaper this week, after they balked at an issue that featured a story about illegal use of drugs and alcohol.

Administrators on the review board for the Statesman told the paper’s senior editors that the story was not fit for publication. The story featured anonymous quotes by National Honor Society members who admitted to violating society policy by drinking and smoking, school administrators said.

Lincolnshire is a suburb 37 miles north of Chicago.

Administrators demanded the anonymous sources’ names and threatened disciplinary action, the Chicago Tribune reported. But instead, the newspaper’s editors submitted a blank front page and left a note explaining the omission of the story. Administrators disapproved of the blank page and decided to cancel the issue.

“The Statesman’s publication, originally scheduled for Nov. 20, was delayed because its faculty advisors determined that an article featuring anonymous sources discussing alleged illegal activity was not fit for print,” the school said in a statement released on Friday.

“The advisors gave the student editors an option of holding the article for a future issue so it could be more thoroughly reported,” the statement said.

Rather than redesign the cover “the students’ preference, however, was to leave the front cover bare except for a brief note explaining that an article intended for the space was not allowed to run as written.

“As a result, a collaborative decision was made by the leaders of the journalism program to delay the issue’s publication until the questions about the article’s sourcing could be resolved.”

In protest of the school’s decision, students have founded a Facebook group called “Against the Censorship of the Statesman.” As of Friday afternoon, the group had 164 members, including some identified in the Tribune article as Statesman staff.

Many posts were critical of the newspaper and its choice of stories, but still came out against what they called “censorship.”

“I traditionally hate reading the Statesman newspaper because I believe that it does not represent the common interests of the Stevenson communtiy and furthermore it only appeals to certain criteria. But I am fully against this type of censorship,” one post read. “Although I do not like the Statesman per se, I believe that the administration should not be allowed to infringe on the basic rights of this country.”

In its statement, the school added: “What occurred with the Statesman was no different than what occurs in professional newsrooms around the country every day. Stories are withheld from public view until editors are satisfied that proper levels of reporting have been done.”

Click here for the story by the CBS television affiliate in Chicago.

Number of days COC has been without a school newspaper: 99