The Great Neck Public Schools board of education has set a policy on district sponsored student publications. Following a controversial ''satirical'' piece in an issue of The Southerner (South High's newspaper) last year, the board of education's policy committee spent considerable time and effort, including seeking outside input, to develop an appropriate policy. The policy was approved at the board's April 2 meeting.
The policy reads as follows: ''Students shall enjoy the constitutional right of freedom of expression. They shall have the right to express their views limited solely by those restrictions imposed on all citizens generally and those specifically designed to protect children and youth in a school setting. The board of education is ultimately responsible for the content of district sponsored student publications.
''The board of education authorizes student publications because they offer an educational activity through which students gain experience in reporting, writing, editing, and understanding responsible journalism. Student publications are intended to provide an opportunity for student expression, but they are not public forums.
''Student publications shall comply with the rules for responsible journalism. Libelous statements, unfounded charges and accusations, obscenity, pornography, threats of violence, lies, ridicule of private individuals or groups (e.g., expressions based on ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, personal appearance, or disability), articles advocating racial, religious, or other forms of prejudice, or the breaking of laws and school regulations, or materials designed to disrupt the educational process will not be permitted.
''Expressions of personal opinion must be clearly identified as such, and bear the name of the author. Opportunity for the expression of opinions differing from those published must be provided.
''Student publications, moreover, should be free of advertisements for alcohol, tobacco, illicit or illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, or any other substance or activity proscribed by law for minors.
''Each school shall develop a publication manual, consistent with this policy, for each student publication. All such publication manuals shall be available for public review.''
At the April 2 meeting, prior to the board's vote, board trustee Barbara Berkowitz, who heads the policy committee, explained that the issue had been discussed ''at great length,'' including much public input. ''This was quite an arduous process ... we began in February 2000,'' she stated. ''This process,'' she added, ''is a model of shared decision making.''
Current editor of The Southerner, Bradley Harris spoke both for himself and for the newspaper, stating that it is ''damaging to a free society'' to impose censorship. And he said that this case ''does not fit the Hazelwood model (a Supreme Court decision).'' Mr. Harris stated that the school newspaper is, indeed, a public forum, and he expressed further concern as to who would be responsible for ''prior restraint.''
Ms. Berkowitz then explained that the public does hold the board of education accountable for the school newspapers and for all school activism. However, she did state that the board has no intention of ''micro-managing.''
When parent Liz Wissner-Gross questioned conflicts of interest and some work that she found questionable in a recent issue, Superintendent of Schools William Shine stated that he would look into the matter. As for the conflict of interest issue, he said that issue belongs in a school's manual, not in school board policy.
Board President Judi Bosworth stated that the purpose of the policy is not to impose censure, and she assured that the policy would not affect the ''life of the paper ... in any way.'' She explained that the school newspapers are still free to criticize the board and the administration, ''following the rules of good judgment and good journalism.''
South High newspaper advisor Norman Wheeler reported that the newspaper would work on its manual, along with assistance from local newspaper editors.