Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dearborn students push for Palestine in their student newspaper, beating back their school's censorship efforts.

"Online student article pulled:

"Senior's editorial on the effects on Gaza residents after military strikes by Israel taken off school paper's Web site"

by Karen Bouffard / The Detroit News

March 5, 2009

On the Web at:

DEARBORN -- School officials' decision to remove an article on the Middle East conflict from Edsel Ford High School's first online student newspaper has sparked a free-speech issue at the school.

An article written by senior Deanna Suleiman, 17, and the entire online edition was yanked following a flurry of criticism from online readers over her commentary on the effects on Gaza residents after the January military strikes by Israel, which came in response to Palestinian mortar attacks.

District spokesman David Mustonen said the article was only pulled because the site did not make it clear it was just one student's opinion. He said it was a problem with the site, not the article.

The district will post a copy of the printed version in its online archives by the end of the week, he added.

School officials eventually put the issue back online except the article, but some experts say it's unconstitutional to censor political speech, even online.

The article also appeared in the print version of the student newspaper, the Bolt.

"I think our students got caught in the middle of some peoples' political agenda," journalism teacher Keith Rydzik said Wednesday, adding the piece was met with an onslaught on Internet blogs and social networking sites. "Our students of all ethnicities look at this as a First Amendment issue and not a Hamas issue. Some people outside the school tried to make this an issue bigger than that."

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center, said censoring political speech in a student newspaper is unconstitutional, whether it's removed from a print edition or a Web site.

"There is widespread confusion about the scope of the First Amendment when you move from print publishing to online, but its all the First Amendment. A pure political viewpoint gets the absolute highest protection under the First Amendment."

Cheryl Pell, a Michigan State University journalism instructor, said newspapers are intended to spur discussion of current events. "Instead of shutting down discussion they should be ramping it up," Pell said.



As of March 5, the students' Gaza commentary was still missing from "The Bolt", at: