Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Reports are getting back to me that students at Carthage Senior High School tried the same stunt that landed Webb City High School students on page one of the Globe and on the area TV news last week.
Students wore homemade T-shirts with gay-pride slogans to school one day last week. Apparently, if the reports are accurate, administrators ignored the students, didn't give them the publicity they were craving, and the problem went away simply because there was no problem.
First Amendment issues are always at the forefront and oftentimes students' rights are the ones that end up being publicized. It was only two years ago that an openly gay teenager in New York was kept out of class for more than three hours after she wore a t-shirt that said, "Barbie is a Lesbian." Though no one has any proof that Barbie is a lesbian (and if you have such proof maybe you should notify her next of Ken), what the record does show is that Natalie Young sued the school and ended up receiving $30,000 in a settlement. The school had to settle since it punished Miss Young for violating a non-existent dress code.
Several lawsuits have arisen over schools attempting to punish students who publish websites which are critical of school officials. Eighth grader Ryan Dwyer of Newark, N.J. started a site to give himself a voice he claimed he didn't have at school.
He specifically told students who posted items on his site not to use profanity and never threaten "any teacher or person EVER." Though I am not thrilled about the reference to teacher or person since I have always considered teachers to be people, it was obvious this young man was trying to be responsible. Some of the items that were posted were critical of school officials so naturally, he was called into the office and told to shut down the website. He did, but he was still suspended for a week, kicked off the baseball team for a month and not allowed to go on the class trip to Philadelphia. That case is still pending.
Syndicated columnist Nat Hentoff, a nationally known First Amendment expert, recently wrote about a Brooklyn valedictorian who had her valedictory speech censored by school officials.
Tiffany Schley wrote a speech that opened with references to her school's textbook shortages, overcrowded classes, administrators who didn't want to meet with students to discuss problems, and a revolving door of principals, four in four years, that the school had gone through.
The principal read her speech, deleted the criticisms, then rewrote the speech. When it came time to deliver, it, Miss Schley began giving her original speech. She had included many positive references to her school toward the conclusion of the speech, but those who attended the graduation ceremony did not get to hear them. An assistant principal cut the power to her microphone and she did not get to finish. The next day, she and her mother went to the school to pick up the diploma. School officials refused to give her the diploma, saying that she had created a disturbance at the graduation and had hurt the school's educational atmosphere. Miss Schley and her mother were removed by security guards because they had allegedly been "disrespectful." She finally received her diploma but the issue was publicized heavily in newspapers across the country. Miss Schley is not suing the school.
Pearl Harbor survivor Dick Ferguson of Carthage was featured on Channel 16's news last night. Ironically, he said that one of the things he did each Dec. 7 was open the morning newspaper to see if anyone remembered.
He must have been disappointed to read yesterday morning's Globe, which featured no mention whatsoever of Pearl Harbor. A wire story is included in today's paper.
I am certain the afternoon newspaper did not disappoint Mister Ferguson as The Carthage Press has always been a paper with a strong historical and patriotic bent.
The Joplin Globe carried the story this morning of the return of laid off workers to the O'Sullivan plant in Lamar.
The article contained the news that the final member of company founder Tom O'Sullivan's family to work for the company, Michael O'Sullivan, has resigned. That now not only means that the connection to the O'Sullivan family is gone, but from a media standpoint it means that The Lamar Democrat has been scooped on virtually every important O'Sullivan story in the past several months.
The Globe story ended with new director of marketing Mike Franks, who recently resigned his position with the Neosho R-5 Board of Education, talking about the departure of the O'Sullivan family. “I’m assuming they chose to pursue other options,” Franks said.
While nothing has been put on the record about the other O'Sullivans, the resignation letter that former O'Sullivan Board Chairman Dan O'Sullivan, the oldest son of Tom O'Sullivan, wrote, indicated that he resigned because he did not agree with the direction in which the current management is taking the company. That information should have been included in R. C. Balaban's story.
I am not fully aware of what local officials have agreed to make the move to O'Sullivan's new corporate headquarters in Atlanta, but it is a sad state for the company to be in when the closest to a Lamar face they can put on their dealings with area media is a man from Neosho.
If anyone knows of any Lamar people who are making the move to Atlanta, send me an e-mail or leave a response on this blog.

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