High school editor to appeal suspension over column

Thursday, February 12, 1998

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) – The editor of the Heritage High School newspaper plans to appeal a 10-day suspension he received for writing a Valentine’s Day column that included sexual references.

John Buzon, 18, a senior, continues to attend school pending his appeal, but he is no longer editor-in-chief, Principal J. Allan Larsen said.

“The school does not approve of nor condone this type of journalism,” Larsen told The Saginaw News in a story Tuesday. “It isn’t something that we would put in the newspaper.”

Buzon declined comment, the newspaper reported.

Larsen said that someone removed a story the faculty adviser had approved and switched it with Buzon’s column.

School districts that publish newspapers face a quandary, said Dawn L. Phillips-Hertz, general counsel for the Michigan Press Association.

“They have a duty to put out a paper that doesn’t libel anybody,” she said. “They also have a duty to not infringe on First Amendment rights because they’re government.”

In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier that school officials can censor expression in student publications as long as they have a legitimate educational reason to do so.

If Buzon’s column is considered humor and hyperbole, “maybe the school district has gone beyond” its discipline boundaries, Phillips-Hertz said.

“The First Amendment protects tasteless speech,” she said. “If this is merely tasteless, then the school district is probably overreacting and may have some problems.”