Students Matt Silverman and Matt Kalmans joined the Weston High School Journal as freshmen to improve their writing skills and give themselves a voice.
I think its one of the only outlets for students to be able to say what they want to say and be heard in the school, said Kalmans, a senior and business editor who often writes for the opinion section.
But recent run-ins with the school administration have left the students questioning whether their First Amendment rights are fully respected. Kalmans and Silverman claim that their stories are often edited in ways that border on censorship.
I think its really important, especially for high schoolers, as any community should, to have a place where students can feel like they can write whatever they want, said Kalmans. That being said, this paper is pretty censored.
English teacher Christine Cincotta advises the group and principal Lisa Wolak oversees the content before publication. Wolak said that the students often write incorrect information and present it is fact, or write unsubstantiated opinions that are misleading.
Part of our challenge with working with these kids is the difference between whats on the commentary page and whats news, Wolak said. We read the paper and we go over it. Have there been stories that we havent run? Sure.
Silverman, a junior and one of three editors-in-chief along with Olivia Holmes and Casey Weiss, said it has been a continuous problem. When new security cameras were placed in the hallways, the school would not approve a con section of a pros and cons opinion piece about the installation.
Silverman said they were told it was shot down because the facts were not straight, but he said that it was meant to be an opinion piece. Wolak confirmed that the information they wanted to present was incorrect and inappropriate even for the opinion section. We work really hard with the students during the process to help them determine whats appropriate, Wolak said.
The students counter that they are rarely told the reason why an article is scrapped, which they say is important for someone to understand after they have put hours of work into it. They like to think that making things very controlled is the best way to make things happen, Kalmans said.
Wolak said that she and Cincotta work hard to encourage the students to obtain all the facts before formulating news and opinions, and that often the students are motivated by emotions rather than rational objectivity.
Despite the challenges, Silverman said that having the students primarily in charge is beneficial to their learning. We get to see how its done for ourselves, he said. Were experiencing a certain amount of independence and we get to communicate and work together ... thats a big learning experience.
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