Atheist editor of high school newspaper denied right to publish article

February 23, 2012 | By | 7 Replies More

Krystal Myers is a student at Lenoir City High School (in Tennessee), which has a predominantly Christian student body. She is also the editor of her public high school newspaper.   She also happens to be an atheist.  KnoxNews reports on a recent incident:

In a recent editorial that Myers, 18, intended for the Lenoir City High School newspaper entitled “No Rights: The Life of an Atheist,” she questioned her treatment by the majority.

The article criticized the school for promoting prayer at school events, including school board meetings.  Why was Krystal denied the right to publish her article?

Schools Director Wayne Miller said it was the decision of the school authorities not to allow publication of Myers’ editorial because of the potential for disruption in the school.

I’d like to know more about the article.  If Kristal happens to read this post, I hope she’ll contact me.  I would certainly consider publishing her article here at DI, if she’s interested.

Share

Category: Blackouts, Media

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Adam Herman says:

    Discrimination against atheists is one of the few remaining acceptable prejudices. If polls are to be believed, an atheist cannot be President.

    One thing that did interest me about your article though is that they feared disruption. Or said they did. If the student body had been predominantly Muslim, I wonder if we would have a different view of their unwillingness to publish an atheist?

  2. I was on my high school newspaper from 1970 to 1973. Note the years. Tumultuous times and we had a staff of very serious, dedicated writers and the administration was always trying to shut us down. Our sponsor, an english teacher, was continually being made to explain why he couldn’t “control” us. There was one simple physical fact that allowed us to get away with it. There was always at least one of us with a car.

    The paste-up of the paper was done by hand then. There were no computers. We took the copy to the printer, the printer did the blocked columns, we picked them up, laid out the paper, and took the lay-outs back to the printer.

    Our sponsor—no one—got his hands on it that wasn’t a student. Our sponsor had no control and since we raised the money entirely ourselves and managed it, we couldn’t be defunded.

    We published many things that whitened the hair of the administrators.

    The disruption they feared was: parents coming to the school to find out about something published in the paper; students learning something that would cause staff problems explaining; questions from the board of education and the school board about how things were being run in the school; loss of reputation.

    Oh, there was one time I wrote an unfriendly article about the sports program and how it was administered and half the football team crowded into the paper’s small office threatening to throw me out the third floor window. I suppose that counts as disruption.

    Back in the ’90s there was a court case that, I believe, went to the Supreme Court about freedom of the press in a school paper. The SCOTUS ruled that a school paper was curricula, not an actual paper, and that the school had the right to shut it down or censor it. I was outraged. That’s no way to teach journalism.

    But to be clear, let me reiterate the disruption feared: parents coming to the school to find out about something published in the paper; students learning something that would cause staff problems explaining; questions from the board of education and the school board about how things were being run in the school; loss of reputation.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Mark: I suspect that this is exactly the type of disruption feared. I wonder if there would have been any “disruption” to allow article encouraging belief in a god, for instance athletes praising god for last week’s football win. I figure many high school administrators are looking for the same sorts of feel-good news you’ll read in most city newspapers. Don’t piss off potential readers with thoughtful or aggressive journalism–that’s the main rule.

  3. Adam Herman says:

    I think the schools should be bolder in standing up for free speech, but it’s just a fact that they will usually consider safety first. Like those kids who wanted to wear American flag T-shirts on Cinco de Mayo. They feared it would start fights or something.

    I think where schools go wrong is that they pick the side that should shut up rather than just having all sides shut up. And its’ always the minority viewpoint that they choose to censor, which sends a pretty terrible message.

  4. Dan Klarmann says:

    Many sources have reprinted her column in full. One example is PZ Myers (no relation). As preface to his copy of it, he says

    “A student opinion piece in a school newspaper? It won’t even get noticed in the insular world of a school. But now that they’ve censored it, Krystal Myers is going to be much more widely known.”

Leave a Reply