A new Voice on the BHS campus
June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:57 PM
"None of the other names, Brian Alexander concedes, were any good.Thus, having rejected such monikers as The Bark and The Crowd, Alexander and his staff selected The Campus Voice to adorn the masthead of a new Bainbridge High School student publication that hit the street last week.I'm most pleased with getting it out, Alexander, a BHS junior who co-edited the newspaper with fellow student Brooke Faltermeier. It was a big, long haul. I have a few teachers who aren't too happy with me at the moment.Lead stories for the first issue include the debate over a proposal for an armed police liaison officer at the BHS, and an account of the recent human rights youth rally hosted by school.While long on other extracurricular activities, Bainbridge High School hasn't had a regular student newspaper for a decade or so - primarily, Prinicipal Dave Ellick said, for want of an advisor willing to take on all the work and get students excited.The last attempt was seen a few years ago with The Grapevine, a sheet that Alexander recalled didn't really go anywhere, and the articles were kind of so-so.Alexander, whose family lives in Suquamish and who decided to stick with his friends at BHS after attending Hyla Middle School, said he was moved to start a student publication to give a regular forum for discussion of campus issues.But where other attempts failed, his vision coincided this year with the hiring of American Studies/English teacher Karen Polinsky, who had acted as an advisor for the Olympic High School paper in the past. Alexander, Polinsky said, was one of several students who expressed interest as the school year got under way.Each time, I told them how much work it would be, and they went away, Polinsky said. But Brian didn't go away.With no journalism class, no staff, and no funds, Alexander launched the project just before Christmas. An organizational meeting brought out 40 students, most of whom stuck with the project to completion. In subsequent meetings, students were divided up by area of interest and turned loose with agreed-upon story assignments. The goal of a 16-page edition was pared to 12, and then eight when some assignments failed to materialize. Production took several weeks, with Alexander learning newspaper design on the fly from a textbook. And with no advertising for revenue, the first edition was launched more or less on faith.We took it to the printer with our fingers crossed, Polinsky said, although one-time funds were approved by the Associated Student Body the next day.The staff box credits 30 writers, photographers and graphic artists.Beyond the lead stories, inside articles mull the pros and cons of paint night and detail a recent rash of vandalism at the new gymnasium, with an obligatory and humorous discourse on the current state of student fashion.On the opinion page, editorial commentaries decry new, more restrictive licensing requirements for young motorists (they're driving teens crazy), with a satirical piece on the barbarism of forcing youngsters to get braces (I, for one, would much rather have a car than straight teeth, writer Eden Nordby declares).Alexander said the Voice staff had the blessing of school officials to include the content they wanted, without prior review by the administration - a luxury that should not be lost on those who follow media case law.In 1988, a well-publicized dispute over administrative censorship of a Missouri high school newspaper went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The court found that student journalists don't enjoy the constitutional freedoms of their professional peers, if a high school newspaper is produced as part of a class with other district assistance or funding.Still, Alexander said, the administration certainly didn't hinder us at all, or set any restrictions on what we could do. They really let us use our own judgment.Ellick said that as long as students maintain journalistic standards of accuracy and fairness, they will have free rein to cover the issues in which they're interested.Publication of the first edition was timed to generate interest as students register for next year's classes, and as the district mulls the allocation of funds for programs. Polinsky believes enough students will sign up to justify creation of an actual journalism class next year. Ellick said he would also like to see a stipend for the newspaper advisor, similar to those paid for coaches and others who support extra-curricular activities.The press run of 2,000 copies hasn't seen distribution beyond the high school, although Monday Alexander was considering putting The Campus Voice on the racks at locations around town.Alexander said his goal is not to stir up controversy by addressing serious issues, but to give voice to issues of relevance to the student population.Next year, I'm sure we'll focus on drug-related issues, that kind of thing, he said."