East End School District administrators cited “community backlash” as the reason for ripping out a two-page spread of the 2020-2021 Bigelow High yearbook, but so far, the district failed to provide any evidence of community backlash.
The pages that were torn out include a timeline of news events over the school year, including snippets about the police killing of George Floyd, the establishment of Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., and the police shootings of Jacob Blake, Daunte Wright and Breonna Taylor.
News about the torn out pages of the Bigelow High yearbook broke a few weeks ago, but a freedom of information act request for any documentation related to the censorship went nowhere. East End Superintendent Heidi Wilson said no such documentation exists.
When asked if there were any emails, or perhaps a public meeting where people shared their opposition to the timeline, Wilson simply answered “no” in an email and did not respond to further inquiries.
Teacher Meghan Walter, the yearbook advisor, reportedly resigned over the censorship.
Now, the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the press freedom rights of high school and college journalists, is calling on Superintendent Wilson to reprint the trashed pages and submit a formal written apology to Walter and the yearbook staff.
In her letter to Wilson, SPLC Executive Director Hadar Harris said:
“In its recent opinion upholding the First Amendment rights of students to speak free of administrative control, the U.S. Supreme Court said that our nation’s schools were “nurseries of democracy,” charged with instilling in our next generation an appreciation for the rights we hold dear. Having Bigelow High School students witness government officials physically ripping otherwise lawful pages from the student yearbook is, I hope we can agree, a lousy civics lesson. We urge you, as professional educators, to take this opportunity to fix that.”