High School Papers
In ages past, underground newspapers were quite the rage. In those days before internet, many times this was the ONLY way anyone ever found out about any alternative views other than word of mouth. Book bans and media censorship made these publications invaluable when they were well written and had good content.
In the age of blogs, Facebook, and website content many may discount the plain old fashioned underground paper. For most situations, we would agree with them. Indeed, getting the word out is far more effective through a well made website.
But, do not stop the presses just yet! In many cases, the old school newspaper may be more effective in a high school environment than many of the newer methods. And, unlike the hero publishers of yesterday, access to good free software and home printers means you will not need to hijack mimeograph machines or mess with unforgiving typewriters!
Why a Newspaper?
As we discuss in Free High School, most newspaper club published papers sponsored by the school itself are pretty worthless. You could go to the school library and pull up papers published from different years. Almost in all cases, there will be no difference year to year except for dates and names. Year after year, it is always the same articles! There is almost NEVER anything controversial, even if the student body itself may have interest in that topic. It is only sports scores, club announcements, prom, and very sanitized "opinion pieces" that are heavily looked over and only meant to be something to put on a scholarship application for the author. A few schools are even starting to do Drug Testing to anyone wanting to join any club or extracurricular activity such as the paper.
Some may ask why go through the trouble of old print media to get information out when there is Facebook? Why is something the old folks and dinosaurs did better? Aren't text messages and Facebook type sites better? Well.. not necessarily.
Advantages of a printed underground school paper over social media
- Most high schools have strict regulations against cell phone use. Many students may be poor and not have phones or phones capable of viewing web content efficiently.
- School controlled computers usually have very restrictive web filters and are not in all classes.
- Creating a Facebook group can be very restrictive as it requires folks actually go and sign up for that group. Also, some folks are Facebook friend whores while others could care less about Facebook (particularly if they read STW articles on social media and know better!).
- A newspaper or flier is right in your audience's face. No online connection needed. Curiosity and boredom will lead folks to read this if they find it laying around! Especially in boring study halls or during activity period! You have a captive audience!
We are not trying to tell you what to put in your paper! But, you may want to listen to some of the old timers and those that know what they are talking about. Your work will be much more effective. An underground journalist is still a journalist! Just because you are not part of the system does not exempt you from at least some guidelines.
a GOOD underground school paper or flier:
- Is well written and has topics of interest that apply to most of the student body. Misspellings or retarded content no one cares about ends up as a waste of trees. The Associated Press Style Guide, good editor software, and spell checker does wonders to make you look better than you are.
- Uses standard print tactics like attention grabbing headlines in large point type.
- Gets to the point and does not ramble. No one reads manifestos or walls of text.
- Always backs up statements and opinions with facts.
- Is free. No one wants to pay for something they have not seen. Besides, underground news is a public service! Many students are broke, anyway.
- Does not make or imply death threats or violence to actual people. While there may be a public sentiment to dislike a principal or teacher, DO NOT THREATEN or ADVOCATE VIOLENCE, even in joking. You give your opponents the moral high ground and they will get cops to round you up and throw you in jail. Yeah, the ACLU may get interested. But still, you could have simply avoided a lot of trouble. See the Killian Nine story further down in this article.
- Avoids slander and libel. You may be tempted to go take pictures of the principal cheating on his wife, the hated English teacher getting shitfaced drunk in a gay bar , or something similar. BUT, slander and libel is usually not a good idea. You may destroy the life of the person's kids and family or make it their life mission to screw you and your family and friends up. Be above them and attack their rhetoric with well written and well researched facts instead of personal attacks.
- Does NOT describe how to do ILLEGAL activities. This includes making bombs, making pot brownies, or how to hack the computer lab's computers and the like. However, it may be okay to talk about some issues that may be illegal only in an academic and detached sense. Examples: insights into a school shooter's motivations and how the system failed or scientific reasons why pot prohibition is stupid. Plus, if you publicly announce how to exploit the computer lab, they will patch it and no one will be able to! Bummer. Leave the "how to" stuff to independent underground websites and projects like STW and type away with us!
- Has popular support of the student body. This can really help if you end up in a nasty war with administration!
One of the best ways to get the word out to fellow high school students is through the student body itself. Start with your closest friends and branching outwards. If you have started your own underground high school paper, start with giving a handful of copies to a select few of your most trusted friends, and ask them to hand more piles out to the people that they trust. In this way the brown-nosing bastards that would go to the principal about anything against the school's administration can be weeded out. Also, by passing papers out through a chain network of others, it is easier for the source of the papers to remain an anonymous secret, save for the first few people in the initial trust circle.
Teachers will undoubtedly discover the underground paper eventually and when they do many will be determined to find the culprits behind it. Once the word has gone out to enough people, the last students on the chain getting the papers are the likeliest to turn others in. But as long as the revolutionary blood in the students remains aflame through the words of the underground paper, very few are likely to want to give in; the students reading your paper will be the ones most aching for rebellion and revolution. Security measures, like dead drops in certain locations or lockers, should be taken in order to keep from the trust being broken. Another, less risky way to distribute, is to use the bathrooms. Almost all of schools have cameras, presumably to help combat school violence and drug distribution. Bathrooms are in some cases, the ONLY place cameras are not present. Just leave a few copies in every bathroom in the morning and the curious will take them. this method helps keep those involved from being caught, but may not reach as big an audience. see also Security Culture.
If the original source of the paper is eventually caught, the results could vary. Some would be let off with just a slap on the hand, and others might be severely punished based on the level of insult fired off at the administration. When it comes down to it, nobody really wants to be in high school anyways. So keep the paper serious among the students, but if all fails you in the end, then don't worry - your words were spoken, and the majority heard and listened.
First Amendment Legal Help
Of course, many administration figures do not read the Constitution, even if their teachers teach it. A small possibility exists of getting in trouble or kicked out. Especially, if you did something crazy like advocate violence or give advice on how to do illegal things. However, there are some cases where even if you do not that, you could get trouble. A gay and lesbian publication could attract bad stuff in a Bible Belt area. Atheist commentary can get some attention in a private religious academy. Only you know the political environment in your area.
Fortunately, there is an organization that goes to bat for people called the ACLU. The ACLU is always interested in cases like this, if shit hits the fan and gets too out of hand.
The Killian Nine Story
The Killian Nine were a group of high school students at Miami Killian High School who, on February 23, 1998, made a satirical pamphlet called "First Amendment" and passed it out to fellow students. The pamphlet contained poems, essays, cartoons, and writings, several of which were deemed objectionable by the school administration. Included were a drawing of a dart through the head of the school's principal, Timothy Dawson. The pamphlet also contained the statement, "I often have wondered what would happen if I shot Dawson in the head and other teachers who have pissed me off." Dawson claimed that he feared for his life in response to the pamphlet.
Once school authorities discovered the identities of the Killian Nine, the students were pulled from their classes one by one and threatened with arrest. After the students each gave a written statement, the school security handcuffed them and had them arrested.
In March 1999, the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU filed a suit on behalf of Liliana Cuesta (as well as the rest of the "Killian Nine") in the United States District Court in Miami. The complaint alleged that Miami-Dade County violated Cuesta's First Amendment right to free speech and Fourth Amendment freedom from unreasonable search and seizure under the U.S. Constitution.