Columbia Scholastic Press Association
Phone: (212) 854-9400
CSPA is affiliated with the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in the City of New York.
2006 Sullivan Award to the Triangle Staff
The following is the citation for the Edmund J. Sullivan Award presented on March 17, 2006 at Columbia University in the City of New York.
The Edmund J. Sullivan Award was established in 1997 and honors student journalists who have fought for the right to speak their minds while in pursuit of the truth on behalf of their audiences.
Mary Kay Downes, president of the Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association, read the citation during a special Awards Convocation in the Roone Arledge Auditorium of Columbia's Alfred Lerner Hall.
It took eight weeks of careful planning for the staff of The Triangle at Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana.
They interviewed medical experts; spoke to a professor at Yale University, gathered background material, and collected statistics and opinions.
The feature section titled “That Other Sex:” discussed the medical and psychological risks of participating in oral sex.
Realizing that the topic might raise some eyebrows, the staff met with principal David Clark to let him know ahead of time that the issue was about to appear. He realized the topic might cause uproar in the community but he believed in the district’s policy of no prior review and supported the student journalists.
“They did a good job handling a very sensitive subject,” he said. “They are good kids and I trust them.”
Soon after distribution, adviser Kim Green found some calling for her resignation. In a public records request school board member Russell Barnard went as far as requesting the student reporters’ notes collected for the issue and he also wanted the name, address, email and fax number of the Yale professor, the collaborationist, he said, who helped the staff. Mr. Barnard led a venomous campaign to change board policy putting forth a rule requesting the district to change the guidelines to now require the principal to have prior review.
Clergymen, community members, school board members were divided yet the Triangle staff and their adviser persevered. They appeared on radio and television. The local newspapers covered the issue in the news and editorial sections. Columnist and editorials most often supported the students. Letters to the editor often did not. .
One letter to the editor suggested allowing student to print such material is because public schools are too liberal suggesting parents need to support charter schools, school vouchers or send their children to private schools instead of public education as we know it.
Others circulated a petition to prohibit printing such articles in the future. The issue had far reaching effects with even Geraldo Rivero reporting the controversy on Fox News
Ms. Green, their adviser, said if the district changed the policy she would have to resign.
“I don’t do pretend journalism,” she said, in a newspaper interview in the Republic, a local newspaper. “ It’ll be hard to find good journalism teachers when their expertise is turned over to someone else.”
Michelle Stawicki, Becky Rother and Nikki Shepherd the papers tri- editors agreed that the proposed policy was wrong.
"We’ve managed to work without prior review for so long it would be a shame to take a step backward,” said Nikki Shepherd.
When students and families gathered at the school board meeting last month to see the results of the district’s decision they waited patiently. The students spoke before school board members. The students focused on Tinker and the district’s no prior review policy. Mr. Barnard focused on the Hazelwood case. In the end, the boarded voted soundly supporting the students. Because of the perseverance of The Triangle, the present policy remains in tact.
The efforts of the staff at Columbus North and their adviser along with a supportive principal reminds us the importance of vigilance we must all have---to go the extra mile to protect freedom of expression wherever it is- and most importantly, freedom of expression should not stop at the schoolhouse gate. --.
The Columbia Scholastic Press Advisers Association agrees. Today we honor the Triangle of Columbus North High School, Columbus Indiana with the Sullivan Award for idealism, resilience and pragmatism.
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CSPA is an international student press association, founded in 1925, whose goal is to unite student journalists and faculty advisers at schools and colleges through educational conferences, idea exchanges, textbooks, critiques and award programs.