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High School Newspaper Suspended After Publishing 'Disruptive' Investigation

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (CBS LOCAL) — A high school newspaper in northwest Arkansas has been reinstated after it was suspended for publishing an article criticizing the transfer of five football players to a rival high school.

Publication of Har-ber High School's The Herald was suspended after it published a months-long investigation into the transfer of five varsity players from Har-Ber to Springdale High School, its arch-rival within the Springdale Public Schools district.

The student newspaper reported that at least two of the players acknowledged that they did so to have a better chance of playing football, which would violate district policy.

The district instructed the newspaper's teacher adviser, Karla Sprague, to remove the story from its website, and the article was taken down, according to BuzzFeed News.

Sprague and the newspaper staff tried to get the district to allow it to be republished. But on Nov. 26, Springdale Superintendent Jim Rollins wrote in a letter to Sprague that the story would not be republished because it was "intentionally negative, demeaning, derogatory, hurtful and potentially harmful to the students addressed in those articles."

Rollins also called it "extremely divisive and disruptive" to the school district.

Paul Griep, the principal of Har-Ber high school, also sent a memo to Sprague on Nov. 27 saying that nothing could be published without prior review by school authorities while new guidelines for student media were being created.

"Failure to follow this directive will result in disciplinary action, up to, and including a recommendation for termination of your employment contract," he wrote.

On Monday, after the story garnered national attention, students told 40/29 News that the administration announced that the student publication could be reinstated.

"Hopefully the article will be published again and that we will be able to write without prior review," Halle Roberts, the Herald's editor-in-chief, said.

Students believe that school officials attempted to censor their publication and that their first amendment rights have been violated.

"I am in the process of writing an official and legal appeal to the district," Jack Williams, a junior and one of the staff writers, said.

Williams and Roberts said they have been in contact with the Student Press Law Center about the incident, which posted the original article.


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