Dear Dr. Vitti,
We, the staff of the Mustang Voice, are writing to challenge the decision to delay release of the Feb. 27, 2020 issue of The Detroit Dialogue. Preventing distribution of the paper is a violation of our First Amendment press rights.
On Monday, Feb. 24, a tragedy took the life of a ninth grade student at Mumford HS in an apparent drowning incident. The following day we were made aware that the layout in the upcoming issue of the Detroit Dialogue featured our story about the Mumford swim team at the top of our page with a large photo of a student swimming in the pool. Stories and photos for our page were turned in on Feb. 14, before spring break, and were printed before the tragedy. The papers were due to be delivered to the school on Thursday of that week and distributed to the school the same day.
When we saw an advanced copy of our page, we decided as a staff to hold the paper to show respect for the school community and the student’s family. Even though our swim team story had nothing to do with the death, we realized the photo at the top of the page might trigger some feelings. It was an unfortunate coincidence, but people who don’t know about the timing might have thought we were being insensitive. Our plan was to distribute the paper after the funeral.
We would like to follow through with that plan and distribute March 9. But DPSCD administrators emailed the principals of all the schools in the Crain MSU Detroit High School Journalism Program saying, “Please do not distribute this paper unless otherwise notified.” We have since been told the delay will be “a couple of months.”
It was our idea at Mumford to delay release of the paper temporarily, but to tell us to hold the paper for “a couple of months” and to apply that decision to all the schools, censors the students who have worked hard to produce the paper. It also is unfair to the people and the groups featured in the stories, including these:
- For the ninth year in a row, every senior at Detroit Christo Rey High School has been accepted to college.
- A sophomore at DSA published two books.
- King High School’s annual King Day was featured on the front page.
- Cass Tech’s story about the importance of voting should be available to readers before the March 10 primary.
For the district to decide that none of these stories need to be published and released in a timely manner sends a clear message that the administrators don’t take our work seriously.
We take our work seriously, and we are interested in the future of student journalism in DPSCD. The Crain MSU Detroit High School Journalism Program is what makes journalism possible for us.
This decision has silenced the voices of dedicated students at 10 DPSCD high schools. We strongly urge you to reconsider the decision and allow student journalists at each school to make the decision about what is ethical and appropriate for their schools.
We look forward to your response.