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Published April 14 2010

West Fargo School Board handed Muzzle Award

The West Fargo School Board has been named a Muzzle Award recipient by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

The award, which is handed out for what the Jefferson Center sees as “egregious or ridiculous affronts to the First Amendment right of free speech,” went to the West Fargo School Board for its handling of a matter involving high school English teacher Jeremy Murphy, who last year lost his role as adviser to the high school newspaper.

According to information on the Jefferson Center Web site:

The school board decided to go with a new adviser over the objection of a group of parents, teachers and union officials who attended a July 2009 board meeting.

The board had removed Murphy about a month earlier, citing “a difference in philosophy” over the role of a student newspaper adviser.

Murphy said school officials had objected to “negative” content in the student newspaper, particularly student-written opinion columns.

On its Web site, the Jefferson Center stated that even if school administrators acted within constitutional limits of their authority, “the decisions they made were poorly taught lessons on the value of freedom of the press.”