Princeton High School Principal Ray Spicher is off to a good start in the new year, earning his way into The Tattoo’s Halls of Shame by censoring a student’s opinion piece that criticized the school’s none-too-good football team.
According to Denise Smith Amos’ story in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Spicher made the staff of Odin’s World “rip out two pages” from its December issue to remove a piece by 17-year-old Evan Payne that criticized the football team for its third straight losing season.
It’s probably no coincidence that the team’s coach is married to the school board president.
Payne told the Enquirer that he tried to write a solid, professional opinion piece.
“I knew it would probably make somebody mad, but for them to cut it out it completely threw me off guard,” Payne told the daily.
Evan’s mother, Paula Payne, wrote in a letter to the school board that her son’s article “merely questions the team’s choice of offense by pointing out the sub par results of the scheme. We contend that this is far from bashing. These are fair questions that could be raised by any sports journalist, high school or professional.”
Spicher, proving once again that he’s not a big fan of words, declined to comment to the Enquirer.
The district’s superintendent, Aaron Mackey, is naturally taking a stand in favor of censorship.
He said he is “taking additional actions to make sure the publication better reflects the district’s attitude and values,” according to the Enquirer. “He is making a district spokeswoman an adviser to the magazine and changing policies to make it clear that advisers can censor articles.”
Mackey said that Payne’s article would have damaged morale, because it is one student or group of students criticizing another group.
“We felt the kid was putting himself out there for some serious ridicule potentially,” Mackey told the paper. “You’re dealing with a very large football squad, not in stature but in numbers. You’ve got one kid putting his neck out there. It may not be in his best interest to have that article. This is not a threat, but it creates an attitude and a situation between kids. You’d have a lot of staff noses out of joint as well.”So there’s a great lesson to learn, too. If a kid has the courage to write the truth – that a football team sucks – it’s best to censor the piece than to protect the writer from what might be a mythical threat.
At a time when American troops are fighting and dying every day to protect America’s cherished freedoms, it’s especially sickening to see men like Mackey and Spicher casually toss the First Amendment in the nearest trash can.
Let’s hope that Payne and Odin’s World keep trying to do journalism with courage and insight, whatever their misguided elders say.
And let’s hope that Americans as a whole have more respect for the Bill of Rights than these school officials at Princeton High who need a good civics lesson.
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