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what if
imagine that you told the truth...
by michael d. driscoll
5.23.01
news

What if you could go back to your senior year of high school and shake things up? How would you do it? Who would you involve?

That question doesn’t have to be asked to one young woman graduating from a Georgia high school this year. My niece, Stephanie Barnes, a senior at Stockbridge high school, not only shook up the school with her underground newspaper, she was expelled for it. By letting high schoolers do what they do best—gossip—in a semi-controlled environment, she was asked to leave her school.

She made her uncle proud (her mother? not so much). Now sit back, relax and remember what it was like to be in high school.

Freedom of Speech and Cushy Couches
By: Step Barnes

Proms, graduation ceremonies, senior picnics, senior lunches, friends, education, and fun; all of these things should have described my last year of high school, and yet, they were stripped from me because I told the truth.

A few graduating seniors voiced concerns about issues facing the senior class, but complained there was no appropriate vehicle to discuss. Being a firm believer in freedom of speech, I came up with the idea to write an underground newspaper.

The Plan
I requested that one person from every grade level and every "clique" in the school write an article on something that was bothering them. I was sure not to be biased. The rules were 1) no harsh language, and 2) no full names mentioned in the articles. As the authors began to turn in their work, I formed a name for this brainchild. Skraite Up (editors note: take off on the phrase "straight up") was to be the sensation of the school with plans for a Web site.

The Reaction
Skraite Up was successfully delivered on March 5, 2001 at 8:40 am. By 8:50am I sat in Stockbridge High School’s lavish front office. Have you ever sat on leather couches in a front office? They’re cushy!

What is interesting to me is that the articles that were true were getting more attention than the ones that were questionable. The majority of the population at SHS approved of the paper and its sudden reality check. The other 3 percent spent the day going bonkers over something written that may or may not have been directed at them.

In the first (and maybe last) issue of Skraite Up there were very few people who were pissed off. Though, the people who threatened me and talked bad about me were quite ignorant of the fact that the articles were written by the people who know them the best—people inside their cliques.

The students’ reactions didn’t surprise me, but the school faculty’s did.

The Interrogation
I had to endure the mental abuse of the administrators. I was asked, "Who made you the National Inquirer for the school?" about one hundred times. Then, "what part of Skraite Up made the newsletter valid?" When I told them everything in the newspaper was valid, they were irate.

The principal of the high school told me that if it was up to him I would not be able to graduate from any Georgia high school. The leader of an institution dedicated to education and the success of young adults told me that I was getting kicked out of high school during the last semester of my senior year!

The End
In telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I was done a grave injustice. After all the hearings, lectures, and having my free speech suppressed has taught me nothing.

Well, I did learn that one particular public school in Georgia spends too much money on really cushy leather couches in their front offices.

At the end of the day, I'm proud of what I did. Unfortunately, and as a result of my actions, I will graduate without my friends at another high school. Damn.



ABOUT MICHAEL D. DRISCOLL

Curious about everything, Michael plans to do it all. A ruffian by day and a lover by night he's managed to go where no one else has gone. His slight forgetfulness means he is curious about everything and plans to do it all. A ruffian by day and a lover by night he's managed...

more about michael d. driscoll




COMMENTS

adam kraemer
5.23.01 @ 10:37a

In a good idea that was never really followed up, a few kids at my alma mater tried the same thing with a paper they called the Contra. I don't think they endured any disciplinary action, but it was immediately blocked from access in the school library.

It usually comes to no good when those in charge mistakenly think they're protecting us by taking away our freedoms. It's almost enough to make me a Libertarian.


sigbjørn olsen
5.30.01 @ 3:08a

Adam, some freedoms cannot be trusted to people, in general. For example, your liberal gun policies are just ... inane. I do however agree that freedom of expression is vital for a living democracy. Someone banning a school paper is rather obviously stuck up with their conservative selves. "Mein Kampf" and rasistic expression is illegal in Norway, and to be honest, I don't mind.

jael mchenry
5.30.01 @ 9:20a

I'm assuming when Sigbjorn references "your" gun policies he means America's, not Adam's in particular. Of course it is possible that Adam has a gun policy, but if so, I can only imagine it's anti-. Which is not terribly inane, in my estimation.

adam kraemer
5.30.01 @ 12:06p

Oh, no my gun policy is based on the idea that people should be allowed to own as many guns as they want, but no bullets or any sort of projectiles which could be shot from said guns.

I would argue, however, that the dangers of a liberal gun policy, in my mind, pale in comparison to limits on free speech. Does no one in Norway find it ironic to ban a book written by a man who rose to power by, among other things, holding book burnings?


adam kraemer
5.30.01 @ 12:07p

Absolutely no offense intended at all towards your country, by the way, Sigbjørn. If you're gonna ban a book, "Mein Kampf" is a good one to start with.



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