I found out today from a family friend that my old journalism adviser was pulled from his position regarding freedom of speech of the student newspaper, particularly because he called the Superintendent spineless. The following is a letter to the Editor I wrote to my town back home, because I am furious.
It has come to my attention that Mr. Phil Jones has been removed from his position as advisor of The Bleu Print. As I was the Assistant Editor of The Bleu Print under Mr. Jones in the 2003-2004 academic year, I was deeply concerned by this information.
Almost two years ago, Editor-In-Chief Joy Wilke’s article regarding the preferential treatment of football players was pulled from The Bleu Print by then-principal Ron Mead. As a former editor and then-student in the journalism program at Emerson College, I found myself at ill-ease when thinking that the paper I had worked so hard for had been tested by the administration. Mr. Mead had always supported The Bleu Print articles that we wrote, even when Editor-In-Chief Rachel Dotson wrote a questionable article on underwear, specifically thongs, during our senior year.
Wilke’s article was the beginning of the end for the First Amendment at Chelsea High School. Preferential treatment is a common occurrence across our country: from Kenton, Ohio, were two students were given special treatment which allowed them to complete the football season before serving 60-day sentences in juvenile detention in 2006, to a story just this week in Cahokia, IL, where a high school football player was permitted to commute to and from school from his jail cell after being convicted of several felonies.
Since Wilke’s article, it seems as though Chelsea High School’s journalism students have undergone some hardships. The program was cut for economic reasons, forcing the students to produce The Bleu Print as an independent study course rather than a journalism course. Now, their trusted advisor, Mr. Jones, has been stripped of his duties. I am not saying that it was right for Mr. Jones to call Mr. Killips “spineless.” However, I do believe that Mr. Jones had valid concerns regarding the roll of the administration and its encroachment on the student body and the students’ newspaper.
It is not in good taste to have censorship in high school newspapers. Newspapers are meant to be an open forum for students and faculty to get a sense of how the student body feels. Wilke was not alone in feeling outraged at the idea that certain students were getting special treatment. She was not the first in the country to feel this way or to speak out against it. And Mr. Jones is not the first advisor to be removed from his position for supporting the rights of his students.
I am a college graduate of journalism. I worked with writers first hand from newspapers around Massachusetts, broadcasting and writing about the world and the news as it happened. I learned a lot of what I knew from Mr. Jones, and I learned that freedom of speech is what every student, and every citizen, has to fight for.
It disappoints me that Chelsea would allow such an atrocious removal to happen. I hope that the students realize at what a disadvantage they will be without the guidance of a talented advisor such as Mr. Jones.