A Nebraska school district has agreed to restart a school newspaper at Grand Island Northwest High School after it had dissolved the paper following a publication of an LGBTQ-themed issue over the summer.
However, local rights groups say that isn’t enough.
The former adviser, Kirsten Gilliland, said the role of advising the paper as well as teaching journalism at the school had been given to another teacher.
The issue in question was the June 2022 year-end edition. It featured an article titled “Pride and Prejudice: LGBTQIA+,” which discussed the history of Pride Month and the origins of homophobia. The edition also had commentary on Florida's "don't say gay" law that restricts LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom. The district canceled the contract with the newspaper’s printer days after the edition was printed.
The 54-year-old Saga had an earlier dispute with the district over preferred pronouns, and staffer Marcus Pennell, a transgender student, told the Grand Island Independent he had been forced to use his deadname in his byline for the June issue.
“It was the first time that the school had officially been, like, ‘We don't really want you here,’” Pennell said. “You know, that was a big deal for me.”
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Nebraska chapter said the school must do more than just reinstate the publication digitally.
“In addition to the reinstatement of the school paper and its program, we asked for the development and implementation of policies to protect LGBTQ students for policies that would be both reasonable and viewpoint neutral to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” said Rose Godinez, an ACLU attorney leading a legal team looking into the issue at the school, according to the Independent.
The organization sent the school district a letter in August that warned it was “exploring all available legal remedies” over forcing the paper to shut down, and issued a notice that the district should keep all documentation about its decision.