EDITORIAL: Grand Island district limits voices with school newspaper decision

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Sexuality discussions in public schools has become a controversial topic in the past year as debates as to what should be allowed in classrooms have grown in frequency and hostility.

Northwest High School in Grand Island recently found itself in the middle of the controversy after the Grand Island School District shut its newspaper and journalism department down on the heels of LGBTQ+ coverage.

The paper's last issue featured two editorials and one news story about LGBTQ+ issues, particularly some that relate to education.

The brought a response from the ACLU, which alleged that the district's move violated the students' 1st and 14th Amendment rights.

“Simply put, the district cannot censor student journalism because district leadership disagrees with LGBTQ rights and wishes to keep students from encountering viewpoints that do not align with that perceived viewpoint,” the letter stated.

“It sounds like a ham-fisted attempt to censor students and discriminate based on disagreement with perspectives and articles that were featured in the student newspaper,” said Sara Rips, legal counsel for ACLU of Nebraska, said in an article published by the Omaha World Herald.

LGBTQ+ issues are polarizing subjects, particularly when related to schools. Debates on whether certain topics should be discussed as part of curriculum and the fairness of transgender students participating in athletics have grown louder.

But the move of the Grand Island School District to disband the newspaper and journalism department goes beyond a simple debate. The ACLU hit on the most disturbing part of the decision; that the students were unfairly censored and a viewpoint of part of the student-body was deemed offensive and invalid.

Regardless of one's position on certain LGBTQ+ issues, this should be seen as an attack on journalism. Print media's freedom for editorial content is constitutionally protected. The decision to remove the student newspaper directly violates that and introduces a level of censorship that sets a precedent for other schools if no action is taken.

Also what this does is show students that their voices and opinions don't matter. School should be a place where students feel free to express themselves and participate in healthy discussions and debates with their fellow students and staff. Removing an avenue in which students can do so says to them that those discussions are only welcome towards certain topics.

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