Har-Ber High School Students Speak Out About Newspaper Suspension

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Har-Ber High School students are now speaking out after their newspaper was suspended for publishing an article investigating the transfer of five football players.

High schoolers at Har-Ber said former athletes transferred to their rival – Springdale High – to play football. 

A move that according to the Arkansas Activities Association would make the athletes ineligible to play.

That’s when journalism students at Har-Ber decided to investigate, but were soon shut down by the school district after publication.

“My advisor put me on this story about a month ago. We then proceeded to investigate,” said Har-Ber Junior Jack Williams.

Har-Ber High School Junior Jack Williams is one of the writers of the article “Athletes’ Transfers In Question” published by the Har-Ber Herald in October. 

Two days later, the superintendent of Springdale schools removed it. 

“I was actually at a journalism conference in Chicago with my advisor when she called me to go into one of the meeting rooms when she told me Dr. Jared Cleveland had demanded her to take the article down,” said Williams.

Sommer Ingram Dean, an attorney at the Student Press Law Center  said the Har-Ber students followed protocol, conducting interviews and requesting documents through the Freedom Of Information Act.

“From what I understand of the situation, it doesn’t fall under any of the unprotected categories of speech or publication as discussed under that statute,” said Student Press Law Center Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean.

According to the Arkansas Student Publication Act, “student publication policies shall recognize that students may exercise their right of expression.” 

“This just seems like a classic case of school district is worried about its image and upset that the students look into this story,” said Dean.
The suspended article is receiving nationwide attention, and the students, aren’t keeping quiet. 

“It makes me feel like i’m doing something right because I smell fire and I smell smoke,” said Williams.

The school’s administration will not comment but tells me it’s reviewing the issue.

“With all due respect to the administration, I believe that their treatment of our constitutional rights is done in the crassest way possible, simply to just evade having to answer for what they’ve done,” said Williams.

“It’s such a shame that students have to worry about this instead of just being able to practice good journalism and good civic engagement,” said Dean.

Dean also said the state of Arkansas is one of only 14 states under The New Voices Act. This means student journalists have added protection from advocates in law, journalism, education and civics.

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