Student journalists at Prosper High School wrote to their Superintendent this week to protest the dismissal of their journalism instructor and the repeated censorship of editorial pieces in the student publication, Eagle Nation Online.

Among the censored editorials was a piece denouncing the removal of John Knowles’ A Separate Peace from the curriculum after some parents had complained about the book’s sexual themes, a move NCAC also criticized. Two other articles critical of school activities were reportedly censored for “not uplifting” students and not reflecting the opinions of all 3,000 students at the school. The First Amendment and Prosper District policy protect student journalists from censorship and only allow schools to exercise “editorial control over style and content” where there is a reasonable education justification.

“Censorship keeps our newspaper from covering all the issues that matter to us,” Copy Editor Isabella Abraham said in a press statement released on Thursday. “Just because the opinion is ‘inconvenient’ for the school, doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to voice it.”

Named the 2009 National Journalism Education Association Adviser of the Year, Lori Oglesbee-Petter has led the student journalists to earn over 100 awards for their reporting. Yet, Prosper High principal John Burdett has reportedly opted to end Oglesbee-Petter’s contract in a move the students fear signals the end of the journalism program.

In a plea to the District to continue the program, the young journalists stressed that “a student’s voice, when found and used to stand up for their beliefs, can not only make the student body more engaged but can change the school for the better.”

NCAC is reaching out to the District in support of the students’ petition and will continue to advocate their right to free expression. We have also joined with the Student Press Law Center (read joint letter here)to urge the District to respect its students’ free speech rights.

Read NCAC’s letter to the Prosper School District criticizing the removal of John Knowles’s A Separate Peace from the English curriculum:

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