The Society of Professional Journalists supports student journalists at the Faribault High School Echo newspaper. The students worked hard to produce relevant, accurate and important information to distribute to fellow students. Instead of censoring the article, school Superintendent Bob Stepaniak should take pride in the level of critical thinking and professionalism his students demonstrated—an achievement the Faribault Daily News recognized when it printed the story.
SPJ recognizes the student reporters delved into a difficult subject by writing about the reasons a teacher is on administrative leave. Mr. Stepaniak should consider the message his action sends to the community and to his own students. It says that it’s acceptable to use dramatic and potentially unconstitutional means to stifle discussion—a discussion that is clearly important to students, parents and school officials—if the details of the topic make him uncomfortable. By requiring final review of content provided by students, the superintendent also demonstrates he no longer trusts the editorial decisions of the staff advisor—a break of protocol that’s endured for the more than 50 years the student paper has been in existence. Lastly, Mr. Stepaniak’s attempt to control the message appears quixotic since the article has since been released in a larger forum.
SPJ would like to offer any expertise available to us to help everyone involved understand how to move forward in the best interests of the school and the community.
Art Hughes, 612-236-8302
Society of Professional Journalists, Minnesota Pro Chapter