We’ve directed you in the past to some of the excellent student reporting at the Wilson High School newspaper. Now, the newspaper is the story.
The local media are all over the story of how the new principal, Kimberly Martin, introduced a policy she’s had at her former schools: a pre-publication review by her office. DC Public Schools stood by her call. Says The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple:
A spokeswoman for the D.C. public schools earlier this week told the Erik Wemple Blog that Martin had practiced prior review in previous postings, which included high schools in Ohio and Colorado. Further, the spokeswoman said that “prior review is a common and expected practice.” Not around here it’s not.
Wemple is right. As long as I can remember (my girls graduated from Wilson in 2002 and 2005), no principal has held editorial control over the Wilson Beacon. WAMU had to go back several decades to find another example of a principal at Wilson wielding editorial power:
In 1967, then-principal H. Murray Schere banned publication of an editorial supporting a congressional bill that would have granted D.C. home rule. The editor-in-chief of The Beacon at the time was Frank Rich, the former New York Times columnist.
DC is a political town and guards its press freedoms even within its schools. At Wilson, this freedom has resulted in stories the administration did not necessarily want to tell, but provided an important window to the students’ perspective.
The student journalists at the Beacon pushed back, first publishing this editorial and circulating an online petition signed so far by nearly 900 supporters. Their story was soon picked up by news outlets across the District, and no less an institution than the Society of Professional Journalists has come out in support of the Beacon’s editors.
Martin, whether it’s due to student and outside pressure or under her own volition, seems to have reconsidered. Beacon editors are preparing to meet with Martin about new editorial policies they’ve drafted at her request. And they’re hopeful of “mutual agreement.”