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Bettendorf school officials confiscate student newspaper

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BETTENDORF --- Copies of the student newspaper at Bettendorf High School were confiscated last week by school administrators who believe an article violated student confidentiality, the school district superintendent said.

The Growl included an article that questioned the consistency of disciplinary action against students, particularly athletes. The paper was distributed Tuesday. When administrators learned of the content, they confiscated remaining copies in school racks and the school's journalism classroom Wednesday morning, Superintendent Theron Schutte said Friday.

"It had what we deemed confidential information about students," Schutte said. Furthermore, the newspaper article caused substantial disruption, he said.

"Schools are not responsible for what comes out in a student newspaper," he said. "It doesn't mean that we don't have a responsibility to make sure it doesn't cause disruption to the school."

The debate prompted the creation of a Web site called "The Snarl."

The collection and destruction of The Growl "is banned by Iowa law because it is a form of censorship," the Web site said. It cited Iowa code. A representative of the Student Press Law Center worked with the writer regarding the legality of the article, the site said.

A representative of that organization could not be reached for comment.

The Web site defended the article and detailed how the writer collected information and quotations for the story, including obtaining signed statements from some of the students in the article.

The Web site is no longer active.

The school district continues to investigate the matter, Schutte said. He declined to indicate what, if any, disciplinary action has been taken.

"One of my concerns is making sure that we have an appropriate system to prevent this from happening ... again" while operating within the law and handling student freedom of expression appropriately, he said.



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