Student-run Lockdown publishes again

By Janey Saving
Athens Messenger: front page
February 8, 2000

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NELSONVILLE, OHIO – Nelsonville-York High School students have published the second issue of Lockdown, an independent publication featuring articles and commentaries written by students.

A total of 170 copies of Lockdown were distributed after school Monday. A large crowd of supporters was on hand to distribute the publication from a site on private property located across the street from Nelsonville-York High School.

Devin Aeh, a senior and major contributor to the publication, believes in the First Amendment rights which compelled her to compile the second edition.

School officials had threatened disciplinary action against the students if another issue was published. Officials could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

The second issue focuses on school issues affecting students on a daily basis. In addition, it addresses a controversy that occurred when the first edition was published in October.

An article in the first edition was written by a student opposed to having to attend pep assemblies designed to promote school spirit in anticipation of weekly football games. The writer, Jacob Thomas, questioned why he must attend a pep assembly and yell for people in his class.

He wrote, “They think they are better than me because they get to wear a uniform with a number on it. (I am only saying this one time, if I get stuck at another one of those blank, blank assemblies, I will be wearing an orange jump suit with a number on it too).”

This message was interpreted differently by both students and staff members. Apparently the content of the article was taken out of context and allegedly a note was circulated stating that anyone who was wearing orange on the day of the assembly was a primary target for violence.

The rumor led to increased absenteeism at the high school, as well as the elementary school which is part of the Nelsonville-York School educational complex located in Buchtel.

At a Nov. 2 school board meeting, the board members, along with Superintendent Tom Gumpf, addressed a large crowd that turned out for the meeting to discuss the rumors that had escalated to the point of causing fear among many students and parents.

Aeh wanted to distribute a second issue of the publication immediately to address what she believes was totally misunderstood and misinterpreted. However, according to Aeh, Principal Tim Flesher threatened her with suspension if she printed another issue.

A straight-A student at the top of her class, Aeh said she was fearful of losing her valedictorian status if she was expelled from school, so she consulted an attorney before completing the second issue of the newspaper.

Members of Free Student Press, a group dedicated to educating students on how the First Amendment applies to them in public schools and promoting independent student publishing as a way for students to make their voices heard, issued a news release at Monday’s distribution.

Officials with the Free Student Press, made up primarily of Ohio University students, said they believe that freedom of speech is essential to American democracy. When school officials deny students this fundamental right, they are doing individual students and overall society a great disservice.

Raymond Vasvari, state legal director of the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union and Aeh’s attorney, said that the students were within their First Amendment right to publish and distribute the newspaper.

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