Burlington School Officials Seek to Quell Censorship Controversy | Off Message
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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Burlington School Officials Seek to Quell Censorship Controversy

Posted By on Sat, Sep 15, 2018 at 5:06 PM

click to enlarge The Register newspaper co-editor Julia Shannon-Grillo at Thursday's school board meeting - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The Register newspaper co-editor Julia Shannon-Grillo at Thursday's school board meeting
The Burlington School Board and Superintendent of Schools Yaw Obeng on Saturday attempted to quell the controversy over censorship of the city high school's newspaper, saying that a new policy will be developed.

The board and Obeng announced that guidelines for material to be published in the Burlington High School Register are no longer in effect. Instead, the board and administration will develop a policy that is consistent with the free speech and student journalist protections under Vermont's New Voices law, the announcement said.

It effectively scuttles a policy that BHS principal Noel Green conveyed Friday, after a dramatic week of shifting decisions over coverage.

On Tuesday, Green ordered Register editors and their teacher-adviser to remove a story from the paper's website that detailed Vermont Education Agency allegations of unprofessional conduct against BHS guidance director Mario Macias. He denies the allegations.
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After students and other critics called that censorship and a violation of the New Voices law, the principal announced Thursday that the article could be reposted. But just as free speech advocates began to cheer, Green issued a directive Friday that all editorial content in the Register was to be reviewed by him or other administrators 48 hours before publication.

Critics decried that decision as a step backward.
Saturday's statement made no specific mention of Green's directive Friday, or of the principal specifically. But the timing appeared to indicate that Green was being overruled.

The statement said, "The Burlington School Board, together with its administration, looks forward to a policy-making process that is student-centered, and which involves the BHS Register and local First Amendment experts and organizations, with the aim of producing a policy that may become a model for all Vermont school districts."

The statement noted that the New Voices law, passed last year, is "intended to ensure free speech and free press protections for public school students in order to encourage students to become educated, informed, and responsible members of society."

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Molly Walsh

Molly Walsh

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Molly Walsh is a Seven Days staff writer.

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