Lenoir City atheist teen says school won't publish her editorial

6:55 PM, Feb 23, 2012   |    comments
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When Krystal Myers began putting her thoughts on paper about Atheism, Christianity and the schools, she was prepared for the backlash.

"I knew that it would happen, so I've been bracing myself for it," she said.

The 17-year-old Lenoir City High School senior penned an editorial entitled, 'No Rights: The Life of an Atheist.'

In it, she talks about being an atheist and the challenges she's faced because of that in a school she feels is mostly Christian.

"As a current student in government, I have realized that I feel that my rights as an atheist are severely limited and unjust when compared to other students who are Christians," she writes.

Myers planned on running the editorial in the school newspaper, The Panther Press. As the editor, she'd done it before. A past piece even tackled the topic of religion.

But this time, school officials decided the editorial could not run.

"I didn't think it was fair, honestly, but, I mean, they do get to say what's in the newspaper and what's not in it," she said. "That's just their decision."

She's right, says Glenn Reynolds, a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and author of the instapundit blog.

"There's not much of a free speech issue here because, for better or for worse, the Supreme Court has basically decided, No. 1, that high school students don't have much in the way of free speech rights on campus, and No. 2, when it comes to press freedom stuff and school newspapers, the school is the publisher of a school newspaper, the only one with the First Amendment rights is the school, not the students who want to write for it," Reynolds said.

The school district's superintendent, Wayne Miller, told 10News he did not want the editorial to run for fear it would become a distraction at school, but he did not want to comment further on the matter.

"It's a valid excuse, so I'm not going to go against him and say that, you know, you should have run it anyway, but I don't think it would have been that big of a deal among students," Myers said.

In fact, Myers said the feedback she's gotten from students and friends so far has been positive. Plus, she says she's heard from several national organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Atheist Party, which she says wants to publish her editorial.

Meanwhile, Reynolds says there is something to be learned from the controversy.

"One argument is that it's a valuable educational lesson because the lesson you learn from this event is, the powers-that-be are scared of controversy and would rather shut somebody up than see anything controversial happen, so the students have learned a valuable lesson from this," he said.

And even though Myers feels her editorial should have been published, she says she has no hard feelings toward administrators and even agrees with some of their policies on running the school newspaper.

"I feel like it should be able to be censored because some topics just don't need to be talked about or written in a school, and I'm sure you can think of which topics and things like that, and so, I think that there should be a little bit of government around there," she said.

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