A high school newspaper found itself in hot water recently over the publishing of some controversial articles. What were they about? Marijuana.
Evanston Township High School in Illinois was the center of controversy last month when the student newspaper (The Evanstonian) published a two-page spread filled with articles about marijuana. They ranged from discussing marijuana legalization and its impact on the state, medical marijuana, why students use cannabis products, as well as a survey of students on drug use and an interview with an anonymous drug dealer.
Administrators at the high school confiscated the newspaper claiming it promoted drug use and illegal behavior.
"Both articles promote illegal conduct that also violates school policy," said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, who oversees the school. "For example, the Drug Dealer article states that a reason to sell marijuana is to make money, as much as one hundred-sixty dollars per ounce. The School Stress article states that using marijuana makes a student funnier and more confident. The article goes on to state that a “feeling of euphoria and bliss” is caused by a chemical in marijuana."
Last week the school board held a meeting to discuss the incident. Several members from the paper defended the articles and claimed the confiscation of the newspapers was a violation of their free speech.
"Marijuana is a part of student culture here, and we decided to take advantage of our free speech as a part of the Evanston community. We decided to use our student platform to professionally report on a relevant topic," said The Evanstonian Online Executive Editor Margo Levitan. "We hope that Evanston's message of free speech would apply to student voices as well, even if the subject is considered taboo."
Under Illinois law, high schools are allowed to confiscate and block student newspapers from publishing on certain circumstances. Michael Colton, an executive editor for The Evanstonian, said that the newspaper didn't violate any of those rules because it did not incite students to break the law, it did not violate district policies and it did not interfere with the operation of the school.
"All stories printed were of student voice, we surveyed students, we got their opinions on the matter, there were no editorials inviting students to use marijuana to romanticizing the use of marijuana in any way," Colton said.
The school administrators told students they could publish the paper if they modified the articles to include the dangers of marijuana. It's unclear if the students will do so. Another meeting on the issue will be held next week.