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Sara Kram, Published July 17 2009

West Fargo school officials perpetrate appalling injustice

The Forum has printed the story of (former) Packer student newspaper adviser Jeremy Murphy and given it the attention it deserves.

I have been distraught these past weeks, fighting urges to egg the school, stage a protest or write a letter, but knowing all I could do is wait for the time that this ridiculous decision gained some press. Now I can voice my opinion, my story, what I know of an exceptional adviser.

Murphy is an outstanding teacher and adviser who never compromises students’ rights to the administration’s hand. My senior year of high school (2007-08), I worked on the staff of the Packer as photographer/copy editor. Murphy (“Murph”) and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on many things, and often we found ourselves at odds, but that is what makes him a strong teacher.

Murphy has a unique ability to converse and debate with students as though they were equals or colleagues, rather than someone who ultimately he could force to agree with him.

The ridiculous idea that because the Packer newspaper is a “co-curricular activity” means that Principal Gary Clark has the right to give no solid reason to let Murphy go is, quite bluntly, horse crap.

Murphy has led the Packer and its staffers to countless awards the past two years, not just the National Interscholastic Press Association Sweepstakes and Journalist of the Year. I took home four awards my final year at the Packer, and this is not an uncommon feat for a student on the Packer staff.

The people we should be most concerned about are returning Packer staffers, many of whom had to adjust two years ago when Murphy took over for Toni Nelson, previous newspaper adviser. Clark, as principal, should know how detrimental it can be to the student publication as well as student journalists to have to continue to change and readjust to fit his agenda.

While it is technically legal for him to relieve Murphy of his duties as adviser, it is clear to West Fargo alumni, students, parents and staff that the only real reason for dismissal is Clark’s inability to accept the Packer as a legitimate publication. When I was on staff, I witnessed attempts to censor and discourage student journalists.

As an award-winning paper, the Packer and its adviser, Murphy, have earned the respect of the students and faculty. They deserve the right to continue to succeed under Murphy’s leadership. He has done nothing but fight tooth and nail to make the Packer one of the top student-run newspapers in the country, staffed by honorable journalists who believe in the ideals and ethics of a free press. I would not know the meaning of the First Amendment without his guidance.

I will find it beyond shameful, and I know I am not alone in the fact that I will be sorry to call myself a Packer if the decision to relieve him of his duty is upheld. So, please consider the alternative: Reinstate Murphy as Packer adviser.


Kram is a graduate of West Fargo High School and a former member

of the Packer staff.