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High School Newspaper Eliminated Following LGBTQ+ Edition

High School Newspaper Eliminated Following LGBTQ+ Edition

One school board member explained "There were editorials that were essentially, I guess what I would say, LGBTQ."

A school district in Nebraska has eliminated an entire journalism program after students published a year-end edition that featured LGBTQ+ content and imagery.

The Northwest High School Saga had previously been reprimanded by the Northwest Public Schools for including students' preferred pronouns in bylines and articles, and in the latest issue, school adminstrators forced a transgender staffer to use his deadname, reports The Grand Island Independent.

"The very last issue that came out this year, there was ... a little bit of hostility amongst some," Northwest Public Schools board Vice President Zach Mader told the Independent. "There were editorials that were essentially, I guess what I would say, LGBTQ."

The issue in question was the June 2022 year-end edition. It featured an article titled "Pride and Prejudice: LGBTQIA+," which discussed the history of Pride Month and the origins of homophobia. The district canceled the contract with the newspaper's printer days after the edition was printed.

The Saga had an earlier dispute with the district over preferred pronouns, and staffer Marcus Pennell, a transgender man, told the Independent he had been forced to use his deadname in his byline for the June issue.

"It was the first time that the school had officially been, like, 'We don't really want you here,'" Pennell said. "You know, that was a big deal for me."

Students and teachers "don't lose their First Amendment and freedom of expression rights at the schoolhouse gates," Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the Independent, adding it was his position these protections "should apply to student journalists as well."

Harris admitted the specific case law favored the school district, though. "The Supreme Court created a carve-out of First Amendment rights, specifically applying to student journalists, which allows school administrators to censor students' work for any quote-unquote, 'legitimate pedagogical reason.'"

The Saga had earlier this year taken third place at the 2022 Nebraska School Activities Association State Journalism Championship. Students Kiera Avila, Emily Krupicka, Treasure Mason, Emelia Richling, and Audrianna Wiseman all took home individual awards.

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