Printed from Kansas City IMC

Commentary: Children & Education
Several students from Lee's Summit North in Missouri have created an underground newspaper. This is the story of how they got started.
Tired of not being able to voice our opinions as much as we wanted, our staff decided that publishing an underground paper was the thing to do. From day one we started gathering information and research about our legal rights as high school students. We browsed endless internet articles on what to do. We set out determined to get things done. Our staff knew that eventually our paper would be out there for the rest of our school to see. Putting the paper together and writing articles turned out to be the easy part in the whole masquerade of events that were to come. I don't think that any of us knew how much time and how many phone calls it would take to finally get our way.
Our first e-mail to the principal was, of course, inconclusive. He thanked us for asking him permission, but declined to grant us the go ahead to distribute. After talking to our lawyers at the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) we soon realized that it would be tough to beat the prior review issue that Missouri makes legal. At that point in time, we felt that getting our paper out was more important than fighting the prior review issue. The day after we received our first e-mail from the principal, we placed a copy of The Mirror in his mail box without being seen. He again declined to grant us permission, using the Board of Education's policy as a reason to withhold permission. Other excuses included his worries about the war, the tightening of the school budget, and all of the other discipline problems at Lee's Summit North. He encouraged us to join a club at school; to this day we do not understand how that would help publish our paper. Maybe he thought we just wanted something to do. Our principal did not seem to know all of the policies or he would have known that in the school board's policy, distribution of underground papers is specifically addressed. Fed up with him, our staff decided to appeal his decision to the Superintendent. In the letter to the Superintendant, we stated that we had talked to lawyers and knew that it was legal for us to do this. We asked him for permission to distribute. Before the Superintendent could answer, we received an e-mail from our principal. We figured, or hoped, the Superintendent must have talked to him. If he did talk to him, I wish I could've been there to see his face when he found out that the superintendent knew what was going on. The e-mail from our principal retracted his previous denials as he graciously invited us to come to his office and talk to him. It was clear he just wanted to know who we were. He also advised us to review the school board's policy; he was even nice enough to give us the link to it online. By this time we couldn't help but laugh. Maybe he didn't realize that he was the one that didn't know the policy; we had seen it the previous week.
Later that day we got an e-mail from the Assistant Superintendant. The Superintendant didn't seem to have the time to deal with us so he gave the job to his assistant. She basically sent us detailed instructions to finding the policy on the school board's site and told us to talk to our principal, not them. She also thanked us and said that everyone respected us for going through with protocol. It was nice to have the reassurance that our principal, the Superintendant, and his assistant weren't mad that we were causing such a disruption. That was the last time we heard from central office. It was now between The Mirror Staff and the principal, including some help from the SPLC.
The next few e-mails between our staff and our principal were pretty much the same. The principal asked us to give him our names a few more times. Then when he realized that wasn't going to happen, he asked for a contact. We politely sent him contact information. We chose a nice older friend of ours that was already graduated from high school. For some reason administration didn't like our choice and told us to pick again. This time it had to be either a student or staff member at LSN. He wanted someone to blame things on if something went wrong. After talking to our lawyers, we figured out that in Missouri, we couldn't beat this either. The contact person we chose was a student at North. He would now be responsible for all problems with the paper and for meeting with the principal.
The first meeting between our contact, who wasn't a member of our staff, and the principal was short. Just long enough for them to schedule another appointment the following week. It turned out that the principal was conveniently flying out to Chicago for awhile. The Friday after their second meeting, everything was scheduled. Administration gave us rules for distribution. We could give them to teachers, with the teacher’s permission, and then the teachers would make the paper available for their students. We were also allowed to make signs and place a stack in the commons (our cafeteria). At first we were not too happy with this. We still do not believe it is fair that we can't hand them out to students before school while other clubs and orgs. are allowed to. He claimed that he didn't want the custodians to have to pick up papers that were thrown on the ground if students did not want them. It's too bad he didn't have faith that students would like it enough to keep it, but oh well; everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. We decided not to fight it since he did give us permission to give them to teachers, which other clubs do not do.
Distribution began on Monday morning. The papers in the commons did not last long. It appears that some of the students at our school are disrespectful and tore the signs up. We don't know exactly what happened to all the copies that were there; either people took them, or one person threw them all away. Giving the papers to teachers turned out to be the best way to distribute. We sincerely thank all of the teachers that willingly gave out the papers to their students.
Although you can sum up the total process in this short article, the whole process took over a month. We made countless calls to the SPLC and thank them very much for helping us through. We could not have done it without them. We still remain anonymous to administration, but I'm sure that they would love to know who we are. It's amazing how close we feel to the principal while he doesn't even know who we are. He can walk down the halls at school and look directly at us without knowing how much of a pain we really are to him. The time spent with the underground paper was well worth it. It is a sense of accomplishment to see how we were able to get what we wanted and stay within legal boundaries. I wouldn't ever trade the experience of telling administration that we had lawyers for anything. It is a very nice feeling; try it sometime. It would be fun to know what the principal thinks about the whole thing. You could kind of see hints of desperation for us to give up throughout the e-mails. You could tell he didn't know what to do occasionally, too. I would have to say that I was disappointed in how he had typos consistently in the e-mails. He also addressed us as "folks" often. Maybe that was a way to make us feel like friends. How special. We took the time to professionally type everything out; too bad he couldn't have done that as well, maybe next time.

***note: We do realize that our principal was doing his job. We do not blame the hardships completely on him at all. This in no way is meant as a comment against him. In fact, we thank him for eventually allowing us to distribute and for being as agreeable as he could. Thank you.***


this sounds vcool, good job LSNers. is the paper online anywhere?
I go to LSN, and i read the paper (my teacher asked me if i wanted a copy) and i thought it was very good. I personally think its awesome what you guys are doing, and i hope you keep it up throughout the rest of your high school experience. For the four years i've gone to LSN, i've probably read the same newspaper articles in our school paper over and over and over. Its good to actaully see some different opinions, other than what they're allowed to print. Anyways, i just wanted to say congratulations and keep up the good work!
came across your small newspaper today, floating along on a sidewalk.

It certainly behooves you to continue to try to spread a little bit of truth, especially about Bush and Iraq.
Your generation will be monumentally affected by this administration's actions. Most kids your age seem to have blinders on about how much these actions will impact their future.

I commend you for your tenacity in getting your first issue printed (always the toughest one). All of the quotes you have used are exceptional. You will never go wrong quoting Thomas Jefferson (or Ben Franklin).

You are becoming the media!
We do not have the publication online but if you give us an e-mail addy we can send you the articles.
save as a jpg file, upload it here.
Simple enough.

btw, is this a monthy?
We're looking into making a website. If we don't we will upload it on here. It doesn't have set dates of distribution, we're trying to do as much as we can. We will probably have one more issue before the school year is over. For those of you that have seen the paper, it would be great if you could mention where you got your copy. We're figuring out the best ways of distribution. Thanks.
online postings could be looked into, I might be considered the technical person out our motley crue, so anyone who can assist with webspace, drop me a line so we can take a serious look into it
i think its great that you got your paper out eventurely, i'd love to meet your princible he sounds like a great guy haha. anyway keep up the work and don't let those kids who ripped up your stuff get you down just cause their retards doesn't mean you have to be too.:)
Where can i get a copy of the Mirror?
It's refreshing to hear about a group who has a vision and sees it through, no matter what obstacles get in your way. Keep up the good work, and let me know if I can help and how. FPIOT, Taz