The soap opera that has been the censorship of Cardinal Columns at Fond du Lac high school took about three weird bootlegger turns Thursday, leading to even more concerns about what the school will see in terms of free press.
The students have been fighting with the administrators since the imposition of censorship criteria by Superintendent Jim Sebert and Principal Jon Wiltzius. The early money was on Wiltzius doing what he was told and not being all that thrilled about being in the middle. Then, the first issue of the paper landed on his desk and he censored several things, including a graphic on censorship.
When the students argued, he stopped talking to them and instead only spoke to the adviser, Matt Smith. A recent school board meeting got testy when several people spoke on behalf of the paper, leading to one person getting cut off due to “time” and another being rebuked via gavel.
What did come out of that meeting, however, was a student announcing that students had used social media to plan a sit-in protest that was slated for Thursday. This wasn’t going to be a few newsroom kids, but rather a larger group of students from high schools throughout the area. According to news reports, at least 50 students showed up.
What happened next is a weird series of events that would leave Kafka and Lemony Snicket scratching their heads.
Wiltzius moved the students inside to the school commons and then later into the Performing Arts Center, according to media reports. As the media attempted to follow this and cover the protest, they were prohibited from entering the school grounds.
When media representatives complained, Sebert said the district has the right to prohibit media access.
(It’s true, but it’s stupid and it only makes the media want in more. It also shows that you have no respect for the media and would censor them if you could as well. Perhaps Sebert wanted to issue some “adult oversight”to the Fond du Lac Reporter and the other media outlets there…)
For good measure, Sebert chastised the media for covering the event.
(Insert sound of a million facepalms occurring all at the same time…)
Once inside, a source told me that the principal seemed utterly disinterested in the entire process. He refused to engage the students at all on this issue, despite earlier statements that the school administrators wanted to “discuss the censorship issue with students.”
Wiltzius then held an “open forum” during the lunch periods, during which time he told at least one set of students that he was resigning at the end of the year. He said it had nothing to do with the Cardinal Columns issue, the controversy, the media coverage or the fact that his boss has been forcing his hand in this issue. No, he and his wife bought a campground and they’re going to focus on that, the source said.
(My take: Whenever someone leaves a job in the middle of a shit storm to take “an exciting new opportunity” that has “nothing whatsoever to do with” said shit storm, it’s basically that person saying, “I’m sick of dealing with this shit.” A press release is slated for tomorrow. Play “bullshit buzzword bingo” with it once we post it here. That is, if the media are allowed to cover it… )
The students are saying this feels like an opportunity to blame the students for him leaving. It’s a sense of “If it weren’t for those meddling kids…” and that if they would have just sat there and taken it nicely, things would be fine.
If the kids really DID force this by wearing him down, I would be proud as hell of them. I don’t want to see anyone lose a job, even it means there’s an “exciting new adventure” over the next hill just waiting to be explored. However, what this shows is that if you’re right and you stand up for what’s right, sometimes you get some movement.
Boxers have a saying: Pound the body and the head will fall. Instead of punching at the head in hopes of a knockout, pound the body and watch everything crumble from the middle down.
The kids have landed a hell of a body blow. What happens next is going to be very interesting.