Student advocacy group emerges

Janak Janai


One of the many flyers being distributed around schools in Hanover County . Caroline Provost

The next Hanover County School
Board meeting will witness the official debut
of the Hanover Students for Freedom
of Information in Learning (HSFOIL), a
gathering of students from all four county
high schools dedicated to monitoring censorship
and advocating for free speech in
public schools.
The concern amongst students was
catalyzed earlier this school year by a debate
regarding the potential banning of a
documentary pertaining to the September
11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A citizen
challenged the instructional material at
a School Board meeting in January and,
prior to that appeal, a complaint had been
made to Hanover County Superintendent
Dr. Wilson. The film is purported by some
to justify the actions of the terrorists, while
others believe it is simply attempting to
paint an often unheard perspective of the
Although the opinions presented in
the documentary may be controversial,
HSFOIL members believe students have
a right to be exposed to different perspectives.
“Students should be able to learn those
kinds of things, like controversial materials,
especially because part of Hanover’s
goal as an education system is to educate
students from different perspectives,” junior
and HSFOIL chairwoman Stephanie
Mayle said.
Along with ideological reasoning,
Mayle cites the First Amendment to support
HSFOIL’s agenda.
“The Constitution doesn’t actually say
that we have the right to education, but
we definitely have a freedom to be able
to get as much information as possible…
by cutting what information we can get as
students, that’s infringing on our rights as
citizens,” Mayle said.
The School Board ultimately ruled
in favor of allowing the video, with history
teacher Chris Pace commenting that,
“This board’s handling of the controversy
surrounding the Friedman 9-11 video was
admirable, especially Mr. Axselle’s defense
of academic freedom.”
Subsequent to the documentary controversy,
HCPS policy was altered in
January. As a result, all R-rated films were
banned in HCPS. Additionally, limits
were placed on what types of movies children
may be exposed to.
In light of this development, Mayle
tweeted about the issue and senior Jacob
Sanford created a Facebook page dedicated
to the cause. The social media based opposition
to the policy reforms gained traction
amongst the student body, and an official
meeting to kick off the organization was
held on Presidents Day. Thus, a new political
force entered Hanover’s stage.
“It’s really important for us to go into
this world and be successful, to be able
to see things from different perspectives,”
Mayle said.
The students plan to present their ideas
for potential policy adjustments at the next
School Board meeting, set to take place on
April 14.


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