Student journalists at Evanston Township High School plan to meet tomorrow with Principal Marcus Campbell to work out details for implementing a tentative agreement that would allow the redistribution of stories in The Evanstonian that led to confiscation of the school newspaper.

According to Michael Colton, executive editor, an agreement with the administration late last week provided that the stories in the confiscated September 22 issue could be distributed if they include a warning about the dangers of marijuana usage.

Wednesday’s meeting will be for the purpose of determining how that redistribution will be implemented, he told Evanston Now.

“We also plan to talk and lay out some guidelines for the administration respecting and interacting with our publication to protect from this sort of confiscation and ill communication going forward,” Colton said.

Presumably the modified stories about the use of marijuana by ETHS students will be included in an upcoming issue of the student publication.

The articles in question appeared in a two-page spread, on pages 6 and 7, designed to “take a look at the pros and cons of legalization, the motives behind recreational use, and the ways in which marijuana affects students.”

“Marijuana legislation stagnates along with Illinois” examined the progress of state legislation that would legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana in Illinois.

“School stress causes marijuana usage” includes interviews with students about why they use marijuana despite all the health warnings.

“Teens seek marijuana for medical purposes” describes how and why marijuana is prescribed by doctors for patients with certain diseases.

And “Six questions for a drug dealer” is based on an interview with an unidentified drug dealer.

The students contend that the stories are not intended to promote marijuana usage among students and that the action by the administration violates a state law passed last year known as the Press Rights for Student Journalists law, that forbids the school administration from censoring a student newspaper unless certain criteria are met.

The volunteer lawyer assisting the students, Maryam Judar, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst, said that a lawsuit, if necessary, would seek release of the paper and the stories, and it would seek instruction on how the law should be implemented.

Related stories:

ETHS in legal hot water with student journalists

What was in those censored drug stories at ETHS?

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Drugs are illegal! Grow a backbone teachers!

    As an educator & mother of an eighth grader, I am shocked at both the stories these students created & now the administration bowing to the kids. These students interviewed a drug dealer! They are interviewing peers about why they take ILLEGAL drugs. One could argue that providing coverage of drug policy in the US is worthwhile & school-worthy. But marijuana is STILL illegal & drug dealers have no place in schools.

    I am also shocked that these students parents are not only not upset, but supporting their kids in using a lawyer to fight the school! Think about what you are teaching these kids by these actions- laws that you don’t like, just ignore them. Encourage your kids to change the law instead. And goodness- tell your kids to stay away from drug dealers!

    1. This is really nothing

      This is really nothing. Last year the administration invited the rapper Big Will to sing his song Dabb On ‘Em to a antiviolence summit. The lyrics of which glorify gang banging, drug dealing and unlawfully carrying firearms. I complained to the administration and they took no action and allowed the concert to proceed in ETHS.

    2. I’m with you

      I’m with you. By my reading (of the article and the law), this article is not protected by the Press Rights for Student Journalists law because it “incites students to commit an unlawful act, [OR] to violate policies of the school district.” Any adult can see plainly that the article normalizing marijuana use, which is why the administrators were right in blocking the story in the first place. It’s unfortunate that the “inmates are running the asylum” at ETHS. This is only one example. Really wish we had some grown-ups willing to stand up to the kids (and the kids’ misguided parents and lawyers).

    3. Exactly what we should hope for

      Jen – regarding the second to last line in your comment (“Laws that you don’t like, just ignore them), this message seems to have been internalized by the ETHS administrators, not the student journalists in question. I’ll quote from the statute – the Illinois Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act states: “Student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media is supported financially by the school district or by use of school facilities or produced in conjunction with a class in which the student is enrolled. Subject to Section 15 of this Act, the appropriate student journalist is responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media.” The Evanstonian has never been simply a cute student project, covering bake sales and pep rallies. It has a long and storied history of encouraging its student staff to be tenacious, fearless, tough, and fair in their journalism. Its alums have gone on to have storied careers at the highest levels, with relatively recent alumni currently working at Politico, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press (to name a few). All got their start doing what these student journalists did – pushing boundaries and not backing down. This is what Mr. Lowe (the longtime adviser) teaches every one of his students to do, and this is exactly what we should hope for from our country’s future professional journalists. Thank you to Mr. Lowe for all that you do, and to the staff for all your hard work. You’re making Evanston proud.

      1. Drugs have no place in school

        I understand the letter of the law- but think for a moment what you are advocating.

        I’ve spent my entire career educating kids in various capacities. I’ve seen firsthand what drug use can do to families and kids. A long time ago, I even student-taught at Haven Jr. High. We had a few students come to school regularly high, or miss school because there were unavailable for learning due to drugs. I watched teachers tirelessly work for these students and their families to try and help get kids clean- because education was the way to a better future- not drug use.

        I also spent time working in Englewood in an after school program. Drug dealers hung out outside the building. We tried to show the kids a different path by getting them engaged in after-school learning and sports- because the reality of Englewood-life was/is that is ridiculously difficult and very hard to break out of the cycle of poverty without some support- and selling drugs looks like a good future when you have no hope for something better.

        And now people in this community are FIGHTING against the school’s better judgement to interview drug dealers (how much do you make?) and discuss with classmates about their rationale for using illegal drugs- “I’m stressed?”

        This makes you proud? Shame on you.

        Sometimes boundaries exist for a reason- When it comes to drug use, adolescents do not benefit from removing this boundary.

        Teachers want to help kids find future success. Direct or indirect glorification of drug use has no place in school. Furthermore- what message do we send kids by this? Lawyer-up every time a school makes a decision you don’t like? Ignore laws? Get 5 minutes of “fame” by writing about hanging out with criminals?

        I am absolutely dismayed that people in this community have chosen to pick this battle. Teachers have seen what drugs can do to kids- They don’t want this for anyone’s kids. Work with them.  Pick a different place to push your boundaries and not back down.

        1. There are reasons to be
          There are reasons to be concerned about the school’s actions, even if you are vehemently opposed to marijuana usage among high schoolers (as I think everyone here is).

          For one, it sets an extremely troubling precedent for administrators to be able to censor student journalists. One of the jobs of a student newspaper is to hold the school accountable, so what happens if the paper wants to report on an administrative wrongdoing? Even if they don’t censor that, the paper might not report on it in the first place because of the chilling effect this has caused.

          It’s also worth noting that, even if you accept the school’s extremely stretched interpretation of the exceptions to the Speech Right of Student Journalists Act (interviewing a drug dealer about being robbed at gunpoint isn’t exactly incitement to follow in those footsteps, in my view), they still violated the law by not providing their justification *before* censoring the article, as the law requires. Instead, they left the paper in limbo for nearly a month, which is a huge deal for an entity that revolves around timeliness.

          1. “One of the jobs of a student

            “One of the jobs of a student newspaper is to hold the school accountable.” No, this is not the job of a student newspaper–that’s the job of taxpaying community members.

        2. You think drugs are the

          You think drugs are the problem in Englewood? Ha! That’s the first problem wth you logic. But, the true hilarity of your statement comes from the fact that you think sheltering is the solution to the problem. The Evanstonian educates. That is fact, and while the article set could have provided more balance, maybe in the form of introducing the negatives of marijuana, but this does not mean it condoned drug use. 

      2. See my comment above. The law

        See my comment above. The law doesn’t allow student papers to publish anything and everything that students want to say.

        1. Technically …

          The law allows students to publish whatever they want — as long as the school administration doesn’t object.

          The law provides a framework for determining when the administration is justified in suppressing a publication.

          It does not require the administration to exercise that right.

          — Bill

          1. True, thanks for clarifying. 

            True, thanks for clarifying.  Although, arguably administration includes the staff member who is overseeing the paper. Presumably, he/she can always block a story before it gets covers or published….even without this law.

    4. Are you a helicopter parent?

      Can I assume that if the student journalist did not do this story that there is (or would be) no marijuana usage at ETHS? I hope each of these student journalist are hired by the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune or even Evanston Now, etc… after they graduate from college. Do you have the same hope for their futures? What exactly do you think a journalist does?

      1. High school journalists are

        High school journalists are subjected to a lower standard when it comes to freedom of the press. There are plenty of things unlawful things going on amongst the students at ETHS. Not all are fit for print. If students are involved in prostitution, for example, one would hope that a student journalist doesn’t interview a pimp and feature “insights” from students who are prostituting themselves. 

        Administrators have a duty to protect students and to ensure that the school isn’t not normalizing or endorsing unlawful behavior. Children’s and students’ rights under the First Amendment are not identical to those of adults.

        1. Parent of the ETHS student

          I found that the articles did not promote drug use. The kids who smoke “pot” or will in the future will not be influenced by a high school paper. Sorry but it starts at home and having frank discussion about drugs with your kids. Keep up the good work Evanstonian. I look forward to see growth in your writing and more informative pieces.

  2. Engaging in the legalization discussion
    The country, and the state are in the midst of a discussion about legalizing marijuana. MJ is legally sold in Evanston today under very tight restrictions, and there is a wider discussion on how restrictive it should be. How can the student paper cover this discussion in a balanced way if they are required to state “drugs are bad” in their articles?

    1. These discussions should

      These discussions should happen at home- but they don’t always.  About 5 years ago, I attended a lecture by Dr. Howard Gardner, Harvard psychologist famous for coining the term “multiple intelligences.” He was speaking on his new book “Five Minds for the Future” at New Trier High School. Educators and parents came to learn about how to help their children advance in our competitive world. Surprisingly, Dr. Gardner did not give any tips on how to get ahead. He spent 2 hours talking about character education and ethics in schools. I raised my hand to ask “shouldn’t this be taught at home? Is teaching character the role of school?” His response was that it should be taught at home, but it’s not in many homes- and therefore, school needs to step in to fill this void.

      Some other commentor here asked how students can say “drug use is bad” if marijuana becomes legal for adults: The reality is that TEEN drug use is bad. According to the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse,  “Individuals who start using an addictive substance before age 15 develop addiction at 6 ½ times higher than those who did not begin until age 21 or older. “ The center provides research-based ways to curb teen drug use(reference 1) including “initiatives that reduce student’s exposure to addictive substances in and around the school’s environment.”  Even in places like the Netherlands, where marijuana is legal across the country, there are restrictions on use by minors for these reasons.  Does this mean that no kid will ever try marijuana? No. But as adults, we have to create some firm boundaries to try and protect high school students- because they are still kids.

      Some of the comments saying that these student-reporters are learning how to push boundaries, which will help them in the future. What an entitled, self-centered mentality. You are choosing to put the potential benefit of a few aspiring journalists over the well-being of the entire student body.  Presumably, this is why the administration first censored the content. I assume these administrators care about the study body, as a whole. They want to help all students & they’ve dedicated their lives to doing this.  Why do you all think you know better than them what is good for the school community?

      Dr. Howard Gardner recently wrote an article in the Washington Post(reference 2) titled Fundamental Things We are Not Teaching Our Kids. I encourage you all to read it, especially those of you who think these journalist students’ will gain a future-edge by this type of activity. Gardner states, “the laser-like focus on self-advancement has become so widespread in many communities that it has undermined important ethical norms that safeguard our individual and collective well-being.”

      Where is the trust in the school administration?  The community should be standing together on the issue of teen drug use- not debating the merits of high-schoolers interviewing drug dealers.


  3. Divided School
    I agree with ETHS Admin on this issue but I also think they are part of the problem. They have let the students walk out of the school without permission for various things for years. No punishment was handed out. What did they expect would finally happen.

    The students did show one thing if their number are close to being accurate. ETHS has a very bad drug problem. Maybe this is truly what the ETHS Admin didn’t want the public to find out.

    1. Sheltering does NOT equal protection

      The articles did not interrupt school or incite any illegal acts. My question for you closed-minded accusers in the comment section is: Did you even read the articles? Seriously. From what I’ve seen from your poorly crafted responses, you have no knowledge of why was written. It seems that you’ve only read the headlines. Maybe you’d be better off making sure you know what you’re talking about before you make brazen, ludicrous, and actually hurtful claims. And, Englewood? Come on! Do you think weed is the problem in Englewood. Don’t even get me started with this. The Evanstonian merely reported a problem at ETHS… That’s what newspapers do! And the Evanstonian is no amateur newspaper, they are working to build a newspaper with prestige and professionalism. A newspaper that would make its adviser, Mr. Lowe, proud. I hope you adjust your mindset, a mindset that likens sheltering to protection, because your claims are bordering on oppressive. And you wouldn’t want that, would you? Try opting for less Fahrenheit 451 and more open-mindedness. After all, these are kids you’re talking about that, and would you want your 8th grader to have to read all the comments that attacking them, their writing, and their parents’ values

      1. Not sure

        Not sure why you directed your reply to me. I don’t know where Englewood is although I think it is an L stop. It would be great if think the percentages of students using drugs etc… reported in the Evanstonian were accurate. It would go a long way in clearing up your post.

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