California high school principal reportedly confiscates student newspapers

A high school principal in California reportedly confiscated a stack of student newspapers due to concerns a story would incite students to panic, inadvertently thrusting Bear Creek High School into international spotlight.

The Lodi News-Sentinel reports that Principal Shirley McNichols was concerned the headline “Outdated safety plan leaves some wondering: How safe is (Bear Creek)?” To assuage those fears, McNichols locked all the papers in her office until they could be reviewed by supervisors.

That decision riled Kathi Duffel, the adviser of the award-winning student newspaper, editor-in-chief Justine Chang and reporter Mikala Bussey, who are now bristling at the chance to defend their First Amendment rights, the newspaper reports.

"It came as kind of a shock," Chang said.

But, according to Nichols, the story contained several inaccurate and misleading statements and could cause students to fear for their safety.

Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said McNichols made the wrong decision to hold the papers, even for a few hours.

"There was nothing written in the article that would incite students to panic or rise up," he said. "It's a good policy to teach students there will be consequences for things they write. They must bear responsibility for things they publish. If administrators prevent that from occurring, students won't truly understand the power they have and the responsibility they have to get it right."

Bussey, meanwhile, knew something was amiss when she saw a headline about her school on

"People in Australia are reading this story,” she said. “And the comments are just great. There were 3,000, last I checked.”

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