Manual Flunks First Amendment Test

Manual High School principal Larry Wooldridge needs a few lessons in public relations, and then he needs to take a class in his school’s communications magnet on the First Amendment and the free press.

Mrs. Shafer

That first lesson would be this — when a reporter asks you about a story involving your school, a proper response is not to question whether the incident is a story. And lesson two would be that any incident involving the words “sex” and “teacher” and “student” is ALWAYS A STORY.

So Wooldridge, and we can only guess he’s not a journalism major, decided that he didn’t want anyone on Manual’s campus talking about the sexy science teacher who got caught “parking” with a student in a handicapped spot in a public park. He couldn’t squelch the scuttlebutt on campus, but he sure could keep the school paper from focusing on the story.

I can only imagine what they’re teaching in that Communications magnet over there. Even a journalism teacher at the school, when questioned by a C-J reporter,  cowered with a “No comment.”  Wooldridge is hiding behind some obscure clause in the JCPS Code of Conduct, going so far as to get JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey to support his actions.

Sure, Mr. Wooldridge, it’s probably legal to prohibit your students from publishing the story. But it’s not right.  And think about the message it sends to the students and anyone who might in the future want to take your journalism students seriously. We have a Manual graduate on board here at, and of course Gabe Duverge is appalled at Wooldridge’s actions.

The message is simple — you’re not serious about teaching real-life journalism and ethics over there. And that’s fine if you want to send students to college ready to write puff pieces about sports and celebrities and school-approved extracurricular activities.

What purpose does silencing the school paper serve?

Given an opportunity to give journalism students at the prestigious high school a chance to showcase their skills on a story that mattered, Manual’s administration flunked the test.  And let’s hope Wooldridge learns a very public lesson — that the First Amendment is an American institution that can’t be brushed aside – even when it makes you, and your school, look bad.

P.S. To the Manual students, we here at would be delighted to publish the student stories on the incident involving Mrs. Shafer.