District to revive student newspaper axed after LGBTQ issue

Nov 14, 2022, 1:25 PM | Updated: 2:24 pm
FILE - Former Viking Saga newspaper staff members Marcus Pennell, left, and Emma Smith display a pr...

FILE - Former Viking Saga newspaper staff members Marcus Pennell, left, and Emma Smith display a pride flag outside of Northwest High School in Grand Island, Neb., July 20, 2022. A Nebraska public school district that shuttered the school’s award-winning student newspaper following its issue of an LGBTQ-focused edition has agreed to bring back the newspaper next year in digital form. (McKenna Lamoree/The Independent via AP, File)

(McKenna Lamoree/The Independent via AP, File)

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska public school district that shuttered a student newspaper following an LGBTQ-focused edition has agreed to bring it back next year in digital form, according to the teacher who advised the publication.

That’s not good enough, according to a civil rights organization that has said it could take legal action over the closing earlier this year of The Saga, the newspaper at Northwest High School in Grand Island’s Northwest Public Schools.

Kirsten Gilliland, adviser and teacher for the school’s newspaper program, told the Grand Island Independent last week that The Saga will return to the school’s class offerings in the spring semester, but in a digital format and without her at the helm.

The role of advising the newspaper and teaching journalism in the school “has been offered to another teacher,” she said.

Saga newspaper staff were informed May 19 of the newspaper’s elimination, three days after it had printed its June edition, which included an article titled, “Pride and prejudice: LGBTQIA+,” on the origins of Pride Month and the history of homophobia. It also included an editorial opposing a Florida law that bans some lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity and dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay.”

The elimination of the 54-year-old Saga newspaper also came a month after its staff was reprimanded for publishing students’ pronouns and names. District officials told students they could use only names assigned at birth going forward.

An email May 22 email from a school employee canceling the paper’s printing services said it was “because the school board and superintendent are unhappy with the last issue’s editorial content.” Some school board members publicly stated their objection to the Saga’s LGBTQ content.

The Nebraska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday that it has been unable to confirm whether the student newspaper and a school teaching program associated with it have been reinstated for next school year.

Northwest Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Edwards did not respond to requests for comment from the Independent and did not immediately return a phone message left Monday by The Associated Press seeking comment.

An attorney for the ACLU, Rose Godinez, said the school district must do more than simply reinstate the student newspaper. In a letter sent to Edwards on Aug. 29, the Nebraska ACLU said the district’s “attempts to quash student journalism and student opinions violate students’ rights to freedom of speech and equal protection” under both the Nebraska and U.S. Constitutions.

To remedy those violations, Godinez said, the district must also develop and implement policies that protect LGBTQ students and the rights of student journalists. It must also publicly acknowledge its errors and affirm its commitment to LGBTQ inclusivity.

The ACLU’s letter warned that it was “exploring all available legal remedies” and issued a notice for the district to preserve all documents, emails, texts and other communications regarding the decision to eliminate the student newspaper program.

The Nebraska ACLU said Monday that the school district delivered within the past few days some public records it had requested.

“We are going through those materials before preparing them for public release and making any decisions on next steps,” the organization said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Today in History: November 27, Moscone and Milk fatally shot

Today in History Today is Sunday, Nov. 27, the 331st day of 2022. There are 34 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Nov. 27, 1978, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (mah-SKOH’-nee) and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, a gay-rights activist, were shot to death inside City Hall by former supervisor Dan White. […]
22 hours ago
This undated photo provided on Nov. 27, 2022, by the North Korean government shows North Korean lea...
Associated Press

Kim’s daughter called ‘most beloved’ child in 2nd appearance

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s leader has taken his daughter to a meeting with missile scientists in her second public appearance, in which state media called her Kim Jong Un’s “most beloved” child, deepening outside debate over whether she is being primed as his successor. The daughter, believed to Kim’s second child named […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Shooting in Atlanta neighborhood kills 1 person, wounds 5

ATLANTA (AP) — A shooting in an Atlanta neighborhood Saturday evening killed one person and wounded five, police said. The Atlanta Police Department said several shots were fired during a dispute around 8 p.m. on the 17th Street bridge in Atlantic Station, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Police said the shooting occurred after a group of […]
22 hours ago
FILE - A lobster rears its claws after being caught off Spruce Head, Maine, Aug. 31, 2021. Environm...
Associated Press

Whole Foods decision to pull lobster divides enviros, pols

Environmental groups are at odds with politicians in New England in the wake of a decision by Whole Foods to stop selling Maine lobster.
22 hours ago
A crime scene is taped off at New Season Church in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Me...
Associated Press

Drive-by shooting injures 2 at funeral at Nashville church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A drive-by shooting in Nashville on Saturday injured two people as they and others were walking out of church from the funeral of a woman who was fatally shot earlier this month, according to police. Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said the afternoon shooting occurred outside New Season Church, […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Zion National Park near Springdale, Utah, is pictured on Sept. 15, 2015. A woman died and a ...
Associated Press

Woman dies on hike in Utah’s Zion Park, husband rescued

A woman died and a man was rescued after they were caught in extreme cold weather while hiking in Utah's Zion National Park.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
District to revive student newspaper axed after LGBTQ issue