A Pocatello lawmaker plans to introduce a bill in the Legislature's next session to bar public school administrators from censoring student publications.
"What we're afraid of is that principals will decide to censor something not because of the content but because it showed the administration in not a good light," Democratic Rep. Millie Flandro said Monday.A similar bill last winter was opposed by the Idaho Association of School Administrators and died on the House floor. But the 1992 measure covered all aspects of student expression while Flandro's new bill is expected to apply only to publications.
Flandro said a recent decision by Boise High School Principal Blossom Turk highlighted the need for a law prohibiting principals from censoring student newspapers and magazines. Turk banned a review of pop singer Madonna's new album because she said the subject was inappropriate for students.
"We have some real strong feelings that schools have some responsibilities that are fairly clear," said Mike Friend, executive director of the Association of School Administrators. "We feel that there needs to be a balance between the curricular aspect of it and the freedom of speech aspect. I'm hopeful a balance can be reached."
Flandro said there should be guidelines to avoid libelous or obscene material, but publication advisers and students should determine whether an article steps over the line.
Barbara Croshaw, director of the Idaho Journalism Educators Association, said censorship arises each year as a problem for some of the state's high school journalists.
"Most of the problems that we have in the state come from the Boise Valley," Croshaw said.
She said student journalists need to have the freedom to determine what appears in their publications - under the supervision of their teacher advisers - so they can learn journalistic responsibility and ethics.
"The way we would foresee it, student editors should plan the content and then the adviser and editor would meet to make a decision about whether it is appropriate," Croshaw said. "But it needs to be their decision and not the principal's decision."