The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled in a case involving a northeast Iowa school newspaper in first interpretation of the state law covering freedom of expression for student journalists. The case involved Waukon High School journalism teacher and student newspaper advisor, Ben Lange.
Lange was given a written reprimand from the Allamakee School District superintendent for material that appeared in the April Fool’s Day 2008, and September 30th 2009 editions of the student newspaper. The April Fools Day parody paper included an article that said there was a meth lab in the biology lab.
It also carried the designation “Issue 66 Volume 6-66.” The September paper included an article on tobacco use that showed a picture of a baby smoking a cigarette.
Superintendent Dan Diercks said the articles in the April Fools Day parody were offensive and issued a reprimand to Lange. He said the article on tobacco encouraged illegal smoking among students and issued a second reprimand. He originally gave Lange a two-day suspension, but later withdrew it.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruling said their review of the articles revealed no rallying cry for members of the student body to engage in misconduct, and said, much of the content cast such behavior in a negative light. For example, the doctored photograph of the high school biology teacher showed the negative physical effects of using methamphetamine and the article pointed to the criminal consequences.
The court said the articles are covered under state law protecting student free speech and the reprimands should be removed from Lange’s file.
You can see the entire ruling along with examples of the newspaper here: Waukon ruling PDF