LOWELL, Mass. — America´s high-school principals waiver in their support of the First Amendment when faced with deciding whether to censor student newspapers, a survey has found.

Researcher Warren Watson of Ball State University will discuss preliminary findings from a just-completed survey of 100 principals during an 11 a.m. panel on Saturday, April 7 at the kickoff event of the New England News Forum at the Wannalancit Mills in Lowell.

Keynote luncheon speaker for the all-day Saturday event is Vermont Gov. James Douglas. He will discuss his state´s efforts to guarantee broadband Internet access to all its citizens by 2010 and his role as chairman of the New England Governors´ Conference. Online registration at www.newenglandnews.org/conference/ is $28 for the day, including lunch.

"We talked to 100 principals nationwide," Watson says in previewing the study findings. "The headline is that the principals, their attitudes have worsened and they were more prone to believe the First Amendment goes to far and more likely to say that censoring the student newspaper was something they were more inclined to do. They believe in free speech, ´but not in my school.´ "

Watson says he thinks principals are reacting to a feeling that they must excerpt control over the school in part because of incidents like the Columbine shootings in Colorado.

"It´s a sense that order is more important than free speech," says Watson. "Principals have a tough job and free speech get´s squeezed out in this atmosphere of order and control."

Watson says he and fellow researchers at the University of Connecticut, working with grants from the John S. James R. Knight Foundation are finding more cases than ever of free-speech surpression in schools, including current cases in Indiana and Wilton, Conn. In the Washington state legislature, Watson says, a bill to guarantee free-speech in schools got through the House and then the high-school protections were stripped out of a Senate version.

"We´re trying to get a sense of what´s in the head of these principals," says Watson. "They don´t want to rock the boat, they are interested in the image of the school. Everything that would create a negative image they are prone to censor."

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REGISTER: https://www.123signup.com/calendar?Org=TMGP
PROGRAM: http://www.mediagiraffe.org/wiki/index.php/Nenf/conference/
WHO´S COMING: http://dbs.hosting.crocker.com/wiki/index.php/Lowell-roster
SPEAKERS: http://www.mediagiraffe.org/wiki/index.php/Lowell-speakers
POSTER: http://www.mediagiraffe.org/pdf/nenf-lowell.pdf
NEWS (below): http://www.mediagiraffe.org/pdf/NEWS-nenf-03-12-07.pdf

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The New England News Forum is a collaboration among news professionals, citizen journalists, educators and the public to promote vigorous, trusted, accountable journalism — and accountable government. If you become a REGISTERED USER, you are entitled to a free personal blog and profile. You may then submit blog entries or original stories.

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