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Adviser of school newspaper removed

West Fargo journalism and yearbook adviser Jeremy Murphy, left, advises organizations editor Miranda Mars during yearbook class in February. Forum file photo

A teacher who advises the West Fargo High School newspaper has been removed from the position because of "how negative the paper was," he said.

Jeremy Murphy, the student newspaper and yearbook adviser, said administrators told him his removal was based on a "difference in philosophy" over how he directed the award-winning student newspaper.

Murphy could also lose his role advising the yearbook. He is meeting today with administrators who he says have issues with the content of the class.

"It's really defeating," Murphy said. "Compromising their ability to succeed in the field - I've used the term deflating. It's frustrating."

Principal Gary Clark didn't return messages asking for comment, and Superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace declined to comment.

Murphy said administrators told him they received complaints from teachers and School Board members about what they called "negative" content in the West Fargo High School Packer.

Murphy recently wrote to the North Dakota Newspaper Association explaining the situation.

"Administrators simply want an adviser who will restrain students from reporting on certain topics and I wasn't willing to compromise their freedoms to that extent," he wrote.

He told The Forum he was called to the principal's office four times in the past two years about newspaper columns.

"Although they didn't have any specifics, I just think it was the fact that students covered both sides and that negative perspective really wasn't well-received by district officials," he said.

Murphy, a former reporter in Gillette, Wyo., who has taught in the district for three years, said he encouraged students to model professional journalists by questioning authority or asking challenging questions.

"I think that kind of stuff bothered them (district officials)," he said.

The paper recently took top honors at the state competition sponsored by the Northern Interscholastic Press Association, including best overall school newspaper and Journalist of the Year - the first time in the school's history to receive the honor.

"We were told by judges that we were right on the edge of being an elite high school paper in the country," Murphy said.

Meagan McDougall, last year's co-editor-in-chief, said the West Fargo paper owes a lot to Murphy for its success.

"He was a great teacher," she said. "It was a professional organization, and we were taught to treat it that way."

He will continue teaching English at West Fargo High School, but "it's going to be tough.

"This whole experience has kind of altered my view on the educational system and the process of what our purpose is as educators," he said. "I thought I was doing the right thing by teaching these kids skills to help them succeed beyond high school. But instead I was punished for it."