First amendment rally is Sunday in Newnan

Thu, 10/25/2007 - 3:11pm
By: John Thompson

For nearly a month, controversy has dogged the student newspaper, “Smoke Signals,” at East Coweta High School. Now, the issue heads to the historic Court Square in Newnan for a freedom of speech rally Sunday from 1-5 p.m.

In late September, an issue of Smoke Signals came out that drew the attention of East Coweta Principal Derek Pitts. Pitts objected to two columns that he felt reflected badly on the school. Managing editor Caitlyn VanOrden took exception to the decision that future editions would have to be approved by school officials, and resigned along with the faculty advisor.

School system spokesperson Dean Jackson said Elizabeth McFadden was appointed the new adviser and an editorial board featuring two students and two faculty members was appointed to oversee the product.

But VanOrden was still not happy with the situation and took to the Internet to voice her opinion.

“Regardless of your opinion on the editorials in Smoke Signals, you must recognize that Mr. Pitts is infringing upon student rights to voice opinions, even unpopular ones. The writers have the right to express opinions, and you have the right to disagree with them and respond to them. This is the beauty of the First Amendment,” wrote VanOrden on her Facebook page.

VanOrden decided the best way to show her feelings was to hold a rally in Newnan to get out the message of the importance of free speech.

“Wear your favorite First Amendment shirt and bring a sign if you wish. I'll have black armbands there. Remember, this is not only about Smoke Signals-it's a celebration of American freedoms we haven't forgotten about. ANYONE wishing to make a short speech about the First Amendment, freedoms, can do so,” she implored on Facebook.

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