High School Paper to be Shut Down after Flag-Burning Photo

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A high school principal in Northern California said he will eliminate the student newspaper after it published a front-page photo of a student burning an American flag.

Shasta High School Principal Milan Woollard said the latest issue of the student-run Volcano was embarrassing.

“The paper’s done,” Woollard told the Record Searchlight newspaper of Redding. “There is not going to be a school newspaper next year.”

In addition to the photograph, the last edition of the newspaper included an editorial written by high school senior Connor Kennedy that defended flag burning as speech protected by the First Amendment.

Kennedy graduated last week from the high school in Redding, about 160 miles north of the state capital. He did not return a telephone message left Monday by the Record Searchlight.

Student journalists said they were merely exercising their free-speech rights.

Woollard said school officials had been considering eliminating the paper before it published the controversial photo. The high school is looking for ways to save money because it expects to get less from the state next year, he said.

The students’ decision to showcase flag burning “cements the decision” to pull funding from the newspaper, Woollard said.

California lawmakers have sought to protect student newspapers in recent years, with the latest effort targeting high school and college journalism instructors.

A bill by Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of Daly City would make it illegal to dismiss, transfer or otherwise punish teachers for protecting students’ free-speech rights. The bill passed the Senate in April and was approved 10-0 Tuesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

It has to pass the full Assembly before it would go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If the governor signs it, the law would take effect in January.

Yee spokesman Adam Keigwin said the senator would look into the decision by the Redding high school to stop publishing the newspaper. He said lawmakers cannot force schools to fund publications.

“Student newspapers often serve as the only watchdog on campus,” Keigwin said. “If it’s truly not an issue of money, it’s disappointing a school district would dissolve a journalism program because they don’t like the content.”

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