New Rochelle School Board Meets Tonight, "Culture of Censorship" on the Agenda

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In their first public meeting since the Censorship Crisis first came to light last week, the embattled New Rochelle School Board will meet tonight from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM in the new wing at New Rochelle High School. New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound broke the news that authorities at the school district had ripped pages out of Susanna Kaysen's memoir Girl, Interrupted in a vulgar attempt to censor a frank discussion of sexuality contained in the book. The story is just the tip of a very large iceberg, part of the Culture of Censorship that the New Rochelle School District has actively embraced in dealing with students, parents and other New Rochelle residents.

A capacity crowd is expected to be on hand. So far, 127 New Rochelle High School alumni and students have signed up for a Facebook-generated protest, 43 as "confirmed guests" and and 84 as "may be attending" Many other New Rochelle residents have indicated they plan on being there as well. Several news organizations have indicated they may cover the meeting.

The New Rochelle School District has long embraced a Culture of Censorship - blocking access to many thousands of web sites, spiking stories in the Huguenot Herald, failing to inform parents and students of the due process rights under New York State law and the 5th and 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, expurgating pages from the district's Code of Conduct, restricting speech at public board meetings, suppressing criticism of school district officials and more. Meanwhile, excusing and tolerating the behavior of district personnel who assault or neglect children, put children at risk without parental permission, hang nooses in school buildings, makes false statements to Child Protective Services, ignoring the burgeoning problem of gangs and youth violence in our schools, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement in cracking down on crime in the schools and much worse.

In this environment, an environment where ignorance is praised as a virtue and silence in the face of outrage is rewarded, is it any wonder that school district officials thought nothing of censoring a book in the crudest possible way or that students did not think to protest the actions of these school officials?

NEW! - In a transparent attempt to discourage open and transparent government, the school board has added another item to the agenda tonight, this one on Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests. This follows in the wake of a recent letter from Superintendent Richard Organisciak to the Managing Editor of this site disclosing his intent to change the district policy and begin publishing information about who is filing FOIL requests. As we have noted previously, we have been filing FOIL requests for access to public records regularly since October.

As has been pointed out on this web site, the City School District of New Rochelle is not in compliance with the New York State Freedom of Information Law in many different ways. Rather than embrace the law and bring the District into compliance with the the law, the District continues to seek ways to get around the law or discourage residents from making use of the law to get access to public records.

A note on polling and surveys: We had hoped to offer a survey for registered users to express their opinions on the book censorship issue but due to technical reasons the survey was removed. For those who experienced problems with the survey software we regret any inconvenience.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

tbaltazar on Thu, 12/18/2008 - 01:22

"Governments Censor, Not Web Sites" -- Mr. Cox. Where are my comments? Were they bowdlerized?

MrTalk on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 22:13

as the district did its standard trick of stacking the room full of supporters.

MrTalk on Tue, 12/16/2008 - 23:12

It is not "suddenly". You are obviously new to the site. Welcome!

There are various settings in the software: (1) anyone can comment and any comment is published immediately, (2) anyone can comment but comments from non-registered users must be approved, only comments from registered users are published immediately; (3) only registered users can comment, comments must be approved; (4) only registered users can comment, their comments appear immediately.

When we launched we set up the site so that only registered users can comment and their comments appear immediately. A few weeks ago we relaxed that so anyone could comment but comments from non-registered users went into an approval queue and only comments from registered users were published immediately.

In light of the high demand to comment from new readers were decided last week to permit wide-open commenting; anyone could comment and any comment would be published immediately. This is always preferred but has the drawback that spammers have software to flood web sites with spam links. Once they discover wide-open comment threads the deluge of comment spam begins.

This began happening yesterday. We were getting thousands of hits to the site from spammers so had to go back to the previous approach. Even that is a problem because the spam comment queues up and moderators still have to clear it. This is a pain in the neck and means more delay in approving genuine comments.

Regardless, none of this is related to censorship because personal or commercial web sites cannot, by definition, censor. Only governments can censor.

Around here, as long as people abide by a very minimal level of decorum we will permit readers to comment even if they are criticizing this site or the people who write here.

MrTalk on Wed, 12/17/2008 - 22:15
Title: As I said...

In light of the high demand to comment from new readers were decided last week to permit wide-open commenting; anyone could comment and any comment would be published immediately.

Read much?

MrTalk on Tue, 12/16/2008 - 22:28

You have defined, in a nutshell, the problem with apologists for the District. The old "love it or leave it" mentality.

This is hardly the first time New Rochelle residents have been told if you don't like the way the school district is run then move somewhere else. No wonder so few of our students have even a basic understanding of civic responsibility.

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