The Forecaster wins regional award for restraint series

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NATICK, Mass. — The Forecaster and staff writer Emily Parkhurst have received a prestigious Publick Occurrences Award from the New England Newspaper and Press Association.

The award was presented for a series of stories that illuminated the use of therapeutic physical restraints on students in Maine public schools.

The stories, published over several months last year, revealed questionable practices by school officials, the schools’ failure to report instances where students had been physically restrained, and the impact on students and parents.

The stories also led to a review of the practices by the state Department of Education, which resulted in proposed new regulations now being prepared for presentation to the Legislature.

Parkhurst’s series also won NENPA’s annual awards last February for education reporting and social interest feature writing, and her work received a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting last month from the national Society of Professional Journalists – the only such award presented to a weekly publication in the U.S. 

The Publick Occurrences Award annually recognizes the best work that New England newspapers produce – individual or team stories, series, spot news coverage, columns or photojournalism that ran in print and/or online. NENPA presents up to 16 Publick Occurrences awards to member newspapers.

The award was established in 1990 to recognize individual and team merit at New England newspapers to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Publick Occurrences, the first newspaper published in America. Four days after it appeared in Boston in 1690, Publick Occurrences was suppressed by the royal governor.

This is the second consecutive year The Forecaster has won a Publick Occurrences Award, and the newspaper’s third in the last four years.

Last year, the award was presented for former staff writer Steve Mistler’s coverage of Oxford Aviation’s ultimately failed attempt to establish a base of operations at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. Staff writer Randy Billings’ coverage of South Portland city government won the 2008 award. 

Besides The Forecaster, the 2011 Publick Occurrences awards were presented at NENPA’s annual fall conference on Oct. 6 to The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.; The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.; Republican-American, Waterbury, Conn.; The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass.; Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.; The Sun, Lowell, Mass.; The Herald News, Fall River, Mass.; Concord Monitor, Concord, N.H.; Valley News, Bristol, Conn.; Townsend Times, Townsend, Mass.; Groton Landmark, Groton, Conn.; South County Independent, Wakefield, R.I.; Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, Peterborough, N.H., and Vineyard Gazette, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.