Highschool newspaper suspended over ‘disruptive’ investigation into football controversy

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An Arkansas school district is being criticized after it reportedly suspended its high school newspaper and threatened to fire the teacher overseeing the publication for publishing a critical story about the recent transfers of several football players to their rival high school.

Buzzfeed News reported on Saturday that the student-run Har-Ber Herald was suspended from publishing earlier this week after student journalists published a months-long investigation on Oct. 30 questioning the legitimacy of the school district’s approval of the transfers of five football players to their rival school.

“They are like, ‘Well, you raised an uproar, we’re going to try and silence you,’” Halle Roberts, the 17-year-old editor-in-chief of the Har-Ber Herald, told BuzzFeed News.

{mosads}The investigation dove into the school district policy’s on student transfers, which prohibits students from transferring to another school to play on a different team. The football players who did transfer from the school used an academic transfer, which is one of the district’s few valid exceptions to the policy that allow a student to play sports at another school.

The Herald received FOIA documents from the Arkansas Activities Association showing the parents of the five players had requested their children be allowed to play football as they transferred schools for academic purposes.

But several of the football players told the Herald in on-the-record interview months earlier that they transferred schools to play football.  

“We just want to go over there because we have a better chance of getting scholarships and playing at D1,” one of the students who transferred told the student publication.

“I just feel like it’s better for my future to go out there and get college looks,” another student told student reporter.

Several days after the students’ report was published, the deputy superintendent for Springdale Public Schools reportedly asked the teacher adviser for the paper, Karla Sprague, to take the story down, to which she complied.

Sprague and the students reportedly pressed the district to have the story republished shortly after, but Springdale Superintendent Jim Rollins reportedly told Sprague in a letter on Monday that the district would not allow the article to be republished because it was “intentionally negative, demeaning, derogatory, hurtful and potentially harmful to the students addressed in those articles.”

He also reportedly called the article “extremely divisive and disruptive.”

Although the paper is currently banned from publishing, Roberts told Buzzfeed News the student staff is still working on its latest edition, which will cover the district’s censorship of the paper.

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