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Lunch Scholars go viral, OHS principal disappointed

| February 27, 2012 | 3 Comments

Lunch Scholars is a video recently put out by Olympia High School’s (OHS) newspaper, the Olympus.

The video interviews students during their lunch hour, asking questions such as, what is the capitol of Washington. The most common answer in the video was Seattle.

The Co-Editors of Lunch Scholars as well as OHS seniors, Thea Byrd and Maddy Clark, said the original intent of the video was to be satirical, not reformist. Only the most absurd answers were screened in the five minute film out of the four hours of shot footage.

According to students’ answers Canada is now a state, of which there are fifty-three, and Bin Laden is the Vice President of the United States.

“I was never taught that knowledge” said an OHS student to his interviewers.

The video was posted to the Olympus website on Jan. 31. On Feb. 2 Lunch Scholars went viral.

Picked up by the Huffington Post under the headline of, Lunch Scholars Video Reveals American Teens Can’t Answer Basic Trivia (VIDEO). The video became a political piece about education reform.

It has also been posted on Kiro 7, the local Fox News station, Tosh.0, and internationally on a British site.
Shortly after the video debuted on the Huffington Post website, Matt Grant, president of OHS, met with the two students who produced the film. After the meeting the file was quickly removed from the web.

Grant posted a lengthy response to the video and its subsequent removal on his Facebook page in which he addresses the nationally ranked high percentile standing of OHS and students. Grant also suggests critics visit Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s report card for Olympia High School.

“This video goes against the culture we have established at OHS and for that reason I am disappointed that it was released to our student body and the public,” wrote Grant.

One of the students, who did not want to be identified, had saved the video to a personal YouTube account. An anonymous source informed the Huffington Post of this, allowing them to access the video.

That night the administration of OHS called the student at home, and according to another student who withheld their name made “vague legal threats” to remove the video.

According to Byrd and Clark they believe they were specifically excluded from the initial meeting because they have more knowledge of their legal rights as student journalists.

In an editorial to the school newspaper, Clark addresses the issue of censorship facing her and the other students involved. Grant maintains that the actions taken regarding the video cannot be construed as censorship, since during the first meeting students agreed to the video’s removal.

After recounting the meeting with the two students, Clark believes her co-workers were “threatened” and “coerced” into removing the video in order to save the school’s reputation. And even if that wasn’t the case, she said the demand to remove the video from a personal account is certainly censorship and brings into question intellectual property rights.

Clark and Byrd met with a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, who said the ACLU would back any legal action the students decided to pursue. But according to the lawyer the courts are currently leaning in a direction not in their favor. And any case right now would not be likely to set a precedent.

The legal concern at hand is the defining of rights for student journalists. Especially in regards to publishing work online, Byrd said the administration is “working off standards that have yet to be set.”

However, Byrd and Clark both agreed to work towards public awareness instead of taking legal action. “People have to understand what the school administration is capable of, which is counterintuitive to what we achieved last century with print journalism. And now we have a whole new medium, the Internet.”

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  1. Matt Grant says:

    This article lacks a sense of journalistic fairness. There are inaccuracies and omissions that lead the reader to believe in a narrative that is different than the reality. I was not contacted for this story. Feel free to connect with me if you would like specifics.

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