Citizens group criticizes Falmouth High School newspaper for student's opinion

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FALMOUTH — A column in the October issue of the Falmouth High School student newspaper has received more attention than the author may have intended.

Lee Larson, a high school junior, wrote the opinion piece for the student publication, The Mast, in support of retaining town ownership of the Plummer-Motz and Lunt school buildings.

Larson mentioned Falmouth Citizens for Sound Choices, a group that has been critical of a town center proposal, and its petition, drafted by Town Council Chairman Tony Payne, against a Nov. 2 referendum. Larson said the petition sent the council into “a panicked state of disarray.”

He also detailed the cost of the proposed town center project and called on the council to send the issue to the voters. He concluded by saying Falmouth Citizens for Sound Choices interfered with “the decision-making just because they think there is something wrong with a proposal.” He called the group “the bane of our local government.”

Although the article was published only in a print version available at the school, members of the citizens group obtained a copy and have called upon the school to allow them the opportunity to respond.

Sound Choices co-founder and former Town Councilor Dave Libby questioned Larson’s sources. He suggested the paper should included a disclaimer noting that the author’s mother, Analiese Larson, is a School Board member.

“This article had more information than I even know about,” Libby said.

Analiese Larson’s friendship with Councilor Cathy Breen, which was confirmed by Breen, was also a target of the group. Breen has supported maintaining town ownership of the buildings.

In an e-mail to Principal Gregg Palmer, Sound Choices co-founder Lisa Preney said “it is customary … for Op Ed authors to list their affiliations precisely so that readers who do not know them personally will have some context for their influences.”

She continued, “I don’t remember the last time my teenager used the word ‘bane,’ or cared about a particular counselor (sic) that his mother’s best friend had publicly sliced and diced with similar words as contained in this article you believe is completely original, unbiased thought.”

Libby said the adviser for the student newspaper initially indicated the group could write a response, but that offer was rescinded.

Palmer said he thought the whole incident was “much ado about nothing.”

“The only limitations are good taste,” he said of the paper. “The kids can write about the things they want to write about.”

Palmer said the edition of The Mast in question also contained articles about international issues and sports, movie reviews, and even a spoof page with an article about Palmer being a member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang.

Libby said he understood why the school decided not to allow a rebuttal.

“It’s a student paper,” Libby said. “To publish a rebuttal that, frankly, might be a little harsh, might stifle students’ writing in the future.”

Neither Analiese nor Lee Larson responded to requests for comment, and representatives from the school said the family did not want to draw any more attention to the issue.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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