Schools back off on policing student papers
A proposal that would have given Seattle public-school principals broad powers to read advance copies of student newspapers and prevent publication for a variety of reasons will be revisited next year, officials said.
Seattle Times education reporter
Seattle Public Schools officials on Monday withdrew a proposal to give principals oversight over school newspapers after students and activists raised concerns that it would harm free speech.
District administrators and board members jointly agreed to table the proposed policy, which the board was set to vote on Dec. 7, and revisit it next year to ensure that it "better reflects the community's values," according to a news release.
The policy would have allowed principals to read copies of school papers before publication and intervene if they thought the content was libelous, obscene or "not in keeping with the school's instructional mission and values," among other criteria.
It was introduced at last week's School Board meeting along with dozens of other policy updates. Since then, it has garnered significant media attention and community response from people concerned it would curtail free-speech rights.
The withdrawal decision came during a phone call between Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield, a former journalism teacher, and Harium Martin-Morris, the chairman of the board's curriculum and instruction committee, which approved the proposal at its last meeting. The two made the decision in response to community views, Martin-Morris said.
"We decided that based on that feedback, it would be best to take a closer look at this particular policy," he said. "That's the way the process is supposed to work."
Opponents of the proposal reacted with glee.
"The district made the right decision," Kate Clark and Katie Kennedy, two editors of the Ballard High School newspaper, wrote in an email. "We plan to continue exercising our freedom of expression as provided by the current policy."
Others pointed out that the withdrawal marks the second time that Enfield has changed her mind on a high-profile issue during her seven-month tenure. In May, she reversed her decision to fire Ingraham High School principal Martin Floe after opposition from parents.
"Dr. Enfield has been very clear that she is not afraid to change direction if she feels that the feedback warrants it," spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said. "It's a very high priority of hers. This is just another example of that."
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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