A team of student journalists at a Kansas high school set out to introduce their readers to their new principal.
When they were through, they’d taught their school board a lesson about vetting candidates.
They also showed the nation how valuable a strong student press can be.
Maddie Baden, co-editor of the Booster Redux at Pittsburg High School, plugged incoming principal Amy Robertson’s name into Google and found that authorities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had suspended the license of a school she ran.
“That raised a red flag,” said Miss Baden.
Further research found that Ms. Robertson’s graduate alma mater, Corllins University, was not listed in a federal database of currently accredited schools. It had been described in articles as a diploma mill.
And its website didn’t work.
The day before the Booster Redux published its article, the school board issued a statement: “Dr. Robertson Brings Decades of Experience to PHS.”
But not long after the article came out, Ms. Robertson resigned.
And the superintendent, Destry Brown, said that in the future, the district would check candidates’ credentials before hiring them.
This was a triumph of the press.
Within the small community of a high school, there is little more important than the selection of a principal.
Pittsburg had made its decision without all the facts, and because these journalists revealed the truth, the school was saved from the consequences of an ill-informed choice.
There are those who think student journalists should be controlled, so they don’t say anything upsetting.
But trying to be inoffensive is not journalism. Asking tough questions is.
Fortunately, the Pittsburg superintendent understands that.
“I don’t want our students to just take the word of an adult because it comes from an adult,” he said.
Student journalists need the First Amendment freedom to do their job. Pittsburg officials gave them that.
Because of what Miss Baden and her colleagues discovered, Pittsburg High School will have a different principal, one better vetted by the school board.
That’s a win for the whole district.
And it is a win for truth.– Toledo Blade