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Tag Archive | "free speech"

Teen defends Post newspaper, will miss prom


 

Peyton Elliston

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs High School senior Peyton Elliston was upset a few months ago when Cedar Springs Public Schools stopped distributing the 150 copies of the Post to the school buildings without notice. The Post and the school later negotiated to drop fewer papers there, but Petyon said she still isn’t seeing it at the high school.

Last month, Peyton put together three packets of information, along with a Post that she hung in the bathrooms in the senior hallway. The cover page said that “the transportation office was directed by the superintendent to abstain from distributing the newspapers any longer. This is nothing short of an attempt on control and censorship. While I understand that many people have resorted to using the Internet to access the daily news, the Cedar Springs Post is still a relevant collection of the significant events taking place in our community. We reserve the right to have access to the town newspaper within our schools, and we will not let one woman prevent us from keeping up with the stories surrounding Cedar Springs.”

The cover letter was accompanied by anonymous comments from students and community members.

Peyton and her mom Tami met with Assistant Principal Anne Kostus on the issue. According to Tami, they made an agreement that Peyton would take a one-day suspension for “insubordination” though there is nothing on that in the handbook. She said the agreement was that she would still be able to go to prom if she behaved. Students who are suspended cannot normally go to the next dance.

Tami said the insubordination came from the fact that the week before, Peyton had asked a lunch employee if she could put something on the tables (a paper) and was told she had to get permission. She didn’t put the papers out.

While Tami and Peyton thought the ordeal was over, she said she later got a phone call from Kostus saying that she should not have told her Peyton would be able to go to prom. It wasn’t fair to the other students.

Tami said the change came after the petition came out to ask the Superintendent to resign. Tami is one of the backers of the petition.

Peyton, who has a 4.0 average and will go to Michigan State for pre-law, said she would do it again. “It’s censorship, you can’t censor the students’ material,” she said.

In last week’s Post, Board President Heidi Reed made the statement “Just as our students do not sacrifice their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse doors, our individual Board members retain their individual rights as citizens when they volunteer to serve our school community,” when she was speaking about statements made on a board member’s personal Facebook page. Peyton’s dad brought that up when he met with Kostus, but was reportedly told it didn’t apply to Peyton, because she didn’t ask permission. But was also told if she had asked, it wouldn’t have been given. He has contacted the ACLU regarding Peyton’s right to free speech.

The Post reached out to Kostus to confirm the story or give a comment, but said that she couldn’t discuss the discipline of a student due to the privacy act.

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