Kentucky high school students who started an underground paper after they were censored from writing about gay issues were recently awarded a prestigious journalism award, while a Tennessee teacher who printed an op-ed by a gay student was also honored.
The annual Courage in Student Journalism Award was given to students of duPont Manual High School in Louisville, Ky. and to James Yoakley, former yearbook and newspaper advisor at Lenoir City High School in Tennessee, for their valor in overcoming administrative censorship.
The Kentucky students formed The Red Pen newspaper after facing continuous restrictions from their principal and administration against publishing controversial stories in the school-sanctioned publication, including stories about atheism and LGBT people. Similarly, Yoakley was reassigned to teach 7th grade English after defending a student for publishing an article about his personal experience of coming out as gay.
The students that formed The Red Pen, Zoe Schaver, Patrick Hartel, Emily McConville, Kelsey McKim, Dakota Sherek and Virginia Johnson, dedicated their personal time after school to create theredpen.org and raised money for a print version.
“The Red Pen is simply one of the highest quality ‘underground’ publications you will ever see," Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, which hands out the awards, said. "Through their determination, these students conclusively proved three things. First, they proved that you can give a student audience uncensored news about topical issues without the sky falling. Second, they proved that censorship always fails, because it’s impossible in the 21st century to keep information under wraps. And third, they proved that students are often more mature and blessed with better judgment than the people in charge of their schools.”