A Joke Frank Sinatra Didn’t Laugh About

The Bacc Rag’s April Fools’ front page was meant to garner a few laughs and then be thrown away.  The front page article was titled “BSGE To Merge With Frank Sinatra” and was filled with fake quotes about reasons for the fake merge. Above the article was a photoshopped image of Justin Bieber in front of BSGE.
Out of professional courtesy, Ms. Johnson informed Principal Finn, of Frank Sinatra High School, about the fake article. Ms. Finn then asked that the issues be recollected and reprinted without Frank Sinatra’s name. According to Ms. Johnson, Ms. Finn “expressed concern about the parents in her community possibly not understanding that that may be a joke.” Minutes after the issues were distributed they were collected. A new issue was reprinted a week later.
The rapid collection fueled rumors about the newspaper. Some students were not able to finish reading the article and were, therefore, not given enough time to discover that the headline was a joke.
Ms. Johnson said, “the decision was made because I was concerned about my colleague.” At FSHSA, Ms. Johnson admitted, Principal Finn is forced to make decisions that revolve around maintaining support from the DOE and school financial sponsors and parents. This creates a pressure to be diplomatic. “I understand the position that some principals are in and that some principals don’t have the support that I enjoy,” Ms. Johnson added.
A Frank Sinatra newspaper journalist (who preferred to remain anonymous) admitted that Finn reads every issue of their school newspaper before it is published.
This is, fortunately, a limitation that The Bacc Rag has never had to work with. It is also not a limitation allowed by law. Despite common belief, according to the Journalism Education Association, no Supreme Court decision states that school officials have the right to review issues before they are distributed. And, although student rights are still a hazy area, the Supreme Court has clearly ruled that officials cannot blindly censor students.
According to the Student Press Law Center, censorship by school officials is only legal if the material will cause a “substantial disruption of school activities or an invasion of the rights of others” or if the material is “libelous or legally obscene.” The Supreme Court, in Tinker V. Des Moines in 1969, set this requirement to protect student rights.
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeizer, a Supreme Court decision from 1988, seems to contradict the Tinker v. De Moines decision because the Supreme Court ruled that school officials can censor student publications with “reasonable educational justification” but not because they disagree with the point of view expressed.
However, this decision does not apply to The Bacc Rag because it requires that the publication be founded by school officials and be a part of the school curriculum. The Bacc Rag is neither. It is also difficult to argue that the prank article would have led to interference in student education. The Bacc Rag was the only participant acting within legal rights.
The Bacc Rag’s April Fools’ incident is not the only case, and far from the most dramatic case, of school censorship.
According to Today’s News-Herald, a journalism teacher in Colorado was reassigned and now teaches English after a student wrote an article that was critical of an action by the high school’s administration. The principal insists the reassignment was not a direct result of the article but the teacher says it wasn’t the first time the newspaper was censored. They were also not allowed to publish an article about a dangerous pesticide that was sprayed on school grounds. This is one of many cases of censorship that challenge the rights of students.


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