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After ‘Build that wall’ yearbook censorship, it’s time for North Carolina to protect student media

North Carolina doesn’t have a “New Voices” bill pending, but it needs one, given how a “small North Carolina high school became an international laughingstock thanks to grabby administrators who acted far more irresponsibly than the students they sought to stifle.”

So says the editorial board of The Wilson Times in the suburbs of Raleigh, charting a path forward for the model legislation protecting student media from censorship that has been signed into law in Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, North Dakota, Vermont, and just this summer, Rhode Island.

Because of Illinois’s law, a high school’s censorship of its school paper for covering state politics – a recreational marijuana bill – is under legal threat and school board investigation, but North Carolina students have no such protection, says the Times editorial board:

Principals have broad discretion to react and overreact as they see fit, teaching the wrong lessons about free speech rights and responsibilities.

Last May, both Richmond Early College High School in Hamlet and Piedmont Community Charter School in Gastonia censored students’ yearbooks over controversial senior quotes.

The charter school blotted out two quotations — one poking fun at the school and another calling Gandhi a racist — in black marker before allowing the yearbook to be handed out. [High school year books confiscated due to senior’s ‘Build That Wall’ quote]

The early college confiscated the entire print run of yearbooks over a handful of “inappropriate” senior quotes including student Miranda Taylor’s. It consisted of just three words: “Build that wall!” with attribution to President Donald Trump.

North Carolina already protects campus free speech in law thanks to the legislative shepherding of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who also serves on the State Board of Education and is “likely” running for governor in 2020 (hint hint):

Censoring student media to sidestep small controversies serves no valid educational purpose and often achieves the opposite result, making national mountains out of local molehills.

Read the editorial.

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