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N.M. students punished after protesting newspaper censorship

By The Associated Press
04.12.04

CLOVIS, N.M. — Three Clovis High School students will be punished for passing out a flier protesting administrative censorship of their school newspaper.

Matthew Coker, the paper's editor, said he and two reporters received in-school suspensions for violating school procedures by distributing the fliers on school property without prior administrative approval.

The three students are to serve one day this week in the school's so-called "behavior intervention program."

The students said they were trying to raise public support after Superintendent Neil Nuttall told Principal Andy Sweet to reinstate administrative review of the newspaper's content.

The students contend the review was spurred by the December issue of the Purple Press, which contained stories about the cancellation of an attendance-monitoring program and a ban on teachers' wearing blue jeans.

"Because of certain stories that no one thought were inappropriate except Nuttall, he's forcing us back to prior review," Coker said.

Nuttall said prior review of the paper is a long-standing district policy and he had directed Sweet to follow it in earlier evaluations.

Nuttall said he discovered Sweet wasn't previewing the paper during a formal evaluation in January or February.

The date of the evaluation and the December publication of the two stories were coincidental, Nuttall said.

"If I say they didn't come up during his evaluation that would be untrue. They were stories that raised concerns," Nuttall said. "But, it would have been discovered that the process could have been in better alignment regardless."

Although previous principals had reviewed the Purple Press, Coker said the principal agreed with the newspaper's sponsor not to follow the practice this year.

It was only after a conference with Nuttall early this year that Sweet e-mailed the students that he was going back to prior review, Coker said.


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