Monday, May 24, 2004
2 sides to the story
jaynote: this is what I was originally gonna post. There's been a good followup, which illustraets just how twisted a story like this can first be reported

The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Editorials: "Bill Nevins, a New Mexico high school teacher and personal friend, was fired last year and classes in poetry and the poetry club at Rio Rancho High School were permanently terminated. It had nothing to do with obscenity, but it had everything to do with extremist politics.

The 'Slam Team' was a group of teenage poets who asked Nevins to serve as faculty adviser to their club. The teens, mostly shy youngsters, were taught to read their poetry aloud and before audiences. Rio Rancho High School gave the Slam Team access to the school's closed-circuit television once a week and the poets thrived.

In March 2003, a teenage girl named Courtney presented one of her poems before an audience at Barnes & Noble bookstore in Albuquerque, then read the poem live on the school's closed-circuit television channel.

A school military liaison and the high school principal accused the girl of being 'un-American' because she criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's failure to give substance to its 'No child left behind' education policy.

The girl's mother, also a teacher, was ordered by the principal to destroy the child's poetry. The mother refused and may lose her job.

Bill Nevins was suspended for not censoring the poetry of his students. Remember, there is no obscenity to be found in any of the poetry. He was later fired by the principal."

Now for some followup from Crawford Kilian's blog

I wrote a letter of protest to the Rio Rancho school board. But as a scarred veteran of many a school war, I should have known the story would have more than one side.

Today I received a reply from Rio Rancho school board's communications office, setting out the board's side of the story. Here's the letter, which includes a statement by a student in the controversy, and which has my original letter at the end. I'll try to keep track of this dispute. Quite apart from the issues of free speech it may (or may not) raise, it's a fascinating example of a school system dealing with a politically explosive controversy.

Thank you for your e-mail to the Rio Rancho Public Schools.

Recently, the Daytona Beach News-Journal published an editorial highly
critical of Rio Rancho High School and some of its staff members. It
was written by Bill Hill, a columnist for the paper and, he states, a
friend of Bill Nevins, an untenured teacher whose contract was not
renewed at the end of the 2002-03 school year. Mr. Nevins is currently
engaged in a legal action against the Rio Rancho Public Schools.

While we recognize the right of newspapers to engage in fair criticism,
such criticism should be grounded in the facts. We are disturbed that
neither the writer nor the Daytona Beach News-Journal contacted the
school district for information or comment. This editorial, simply put,
is rife with inaccuracies, misinformation, and outright untruths. Its
publication constitutes a reckless disregard for the truth to such a
degree that Rio Rancho Public Schools has asked its lawyers to review
and evaluate what legal recourse may be available.

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