LINCOLN, NEBRASKA — (04-02-23) — After publishing its June LGBTQ-focused edition, the Grand Island Northwest Public Schools shutdown the Viking Saga newspaper at Grand Island Northwest High School. Now, the school district has been sued by the Nebraska High School Press Association and a former high school journalist,  claiming in their federal lawsuit filed last Friday, that the Grand Island Northwest Public Schools and its superintendent violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment back in May, when it shutdown the Viking Saga newspaper.

Kirsten Gilliland, adviser and teacher for the high school’s newspaper program, told the Grand Island Independent last week that after the backlash, the Saga will return to the school’s class offerings in the spring semester, but in a digital format and without her at the helm.

In a letter to families and faculty acquired by The Independent News Magazine, Superintendent Jeff Edwards questioned the Independent’s story about the newspaper’s demise, saying the newspaper was not eliminated, but “paused.” That was in late August.

While the class exists under the helm of Northwest High School English teacher Alex Hull, there is no sign of the new Saga itself.

In a statement responding to the Saga’s absence, Rose Godinez, legal counsel for ACLU of Nebraska, said: “It is frustrating though unsurprising to see the district once again say one thing then do another, completely failing to address the harm of its discriminatory actions toward LGBTQ+ students last year.”

“It is hard to find words for what it felt like watching people who were supposed to be supporting our education instead silence us for covering issues impacting our lives,” Marcus Pennell, the former student suing the district, said in a statement. “I was crushed.”

The high school staff at the Viking Saga newspaper were informed of the newspaper’s elimination three days after printing its June edition, which included an article titled “Pride and prejudice: LGBTQIA+” about the origins of Pride Month and the history of homophobia.

The June edition also included an editorial opposing Ron DeSantis anti-LGBTQ law dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay”.

JRL CHARTS LGBT Politics reached out to the school district’s superintendent, Jeffrey Edwards for comment but as of this report, we have not received a response. However he did release a statement to the media saying that the shutdown of the high school paper was “an administrative decision.”

[Lead Image: Former Viking Saga student newspaper staff members Marcus Pennell, left, and Emma Smith display a pride flag outside of Northwest High School in Grand Island, Neb., July 20, 2022]

Article by: Paul Goldberg, Staff Writer

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