Overland High School newspaper threatened with closure to survive after ACLU complaints

Categories: Media

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The editors.
Last week, two editors of The Scout, the Overland High School student newspaper, appeared with representatives of the ACLU of Colorado to protest actions of the school's principal, who was said to have ordered the pub to shut down for the year and removed its faculty adviser over a disputed story. Subsequent reports have been all over the map, but a district spokeswoman now insists the paper will stay alive this year and into the future.

According to the ACLU, Overland Principal Leon Lundie instituted a policy of prior review for The Scout -- a highly debatable action in the view of organizations like the Student Press Law Center. In following this policy earlier this month, students showed Lundie a story about an Overland student who died after being injured during a wrestling match. Lundie allegedly told reporters the cause of death listed in the story was wrong, and when they obtained a death certificate proving otherwise, he complained that the piece lacked balance.

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Leon Lundie.
Days later, the ACLU maintains, Lundie removed teacher Laura Sudik from her role as newspaper adviser and told Scout staffers that the newspaper would stop publishing because of his displeasure at its direction -- although he did okay a senior issue focusing on nostalgia, not news.

Student editors Lori Schafer and Jaclyn Gutierrez refused to mutely accept this ruling and went to the ACLU, which staged a well-attended press conference. Afterward, reports from news organizations such as 9News, the Aurora Sentinel and the Denver Daily News were all over the map, in large part because of what appeared to be shifting responses from the Cherry Creek School District, of which Overland is a part. For instance, the Denver Post quoted Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Tustin Amole as saying publication of the newspaper had been halted for budgetary reasons, not censorship.

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What I can't figure out is why the commercial media are refusing to call the school district and its administrators on what are clearly lies. It was obvious that their motivation here was censorship but when they were caught in the act by sharp students who exposed their actions, they did what politicians do best: spin. Now they are hoping that their seemingly reasonable statements will make the news coverage go away so that they can continue their dirty work quietly until this newspaper is all but dead. Lets hope that these poised and courageous students and their families keep a careful watch on this school -- and work to oust the leaders that have so little respect for the voice of students.


It is ironic, although not entirely surprising, that the only ones who have been able to effectively communicate their position throughout this ordeal are the students--not the adult administration or their exceedingly confused spokesperson. I imagine they learned such strong communication skills in part because of their high school journalism class. Perhaps the OHS administration should drop in every once in a while for a refresher.


The Cherry Creek School District appears to not know up from down, left from right, hot from cold and truth from lies. And, that is sad. These students and their adviser deserve better. Not because they are student-journalists. Not because one is an employee. They deserve better because they speak the truth -- and then to be slammed because of adult failure is disgusting.

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