Burnaby Now: Student wins his battle

A local student who claimed his article on Middle East politics was censored by school administration finally got his piece published in the school paper.

By Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now, October 5, 2011

Last March, Elias Ishak, then a Grade 12 at Burnaby South Secondary, charged that administration censored an article he wrote on the Middle East over fears of upsetting parents.

Ishak’s piece was for one of the school’s newspapers and covered a range of topics, including the education system, unrest and pro-democracy movements in the Middle East and Western oil interests supporting corrupt governments. A teacher at Burnaby South informed Ishak that his article was rejected because administration didn’t want to upset parents with such a touchy subject.

In a previous interview with the NOW, principal Gordon Li said the article was rejected because it did not fit the scope of the paper, which focuses on the school’s community. The situation sparked media interest and drew attention from free speech activists.

Mordecai Briemberg is a Burnaby resident and active member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, a group promoting freedom of expression on Palestine and Israel. Briemberg told the NOW he visited Burnaby South’s principal, Gordon Li, to talk about Ishak’s article. Briemberg said he identified himself as a local resident, not as a member of the activist group. According to Briemberg, the Seriously Free Speech Committee emailed Burnaby school board chair Larry Hayes expressing concerns about Ishak’s censorship charge. The B.C. Civil Liberties also sent a letter to the Li, outlining its concerns regarding free speech.

When asked why the article was published, Li recently told the NOW the idea behind the school paper is about creating an opportunity for students to say things.

“We don’t try to silence students’ voice,” he said. “For me, that was never what we were trying to do.”

Another reason, Li said, was that the school didn’t have an editorial group with experience in editing an article like Ishak’s..

“I think the change is really (we) had more time to work on it,” he said.

Ishak’s article was published in June in the school paper. To read the original story and his previously rejected article, go to the Community Conversations blog at http://blogs.canada.com/author/jennifermoreau.


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