Smoky Hill High School Cancels Student Journalism Class Due to Low Enrollment: “We as Students Need to Speak Up”


Smoky Now

A Facebook post from Smoky Hill High School journalism advisor chronicles the school’s decision to cancel the journalism and speech & debate classes.

Carly Philpott, Editor-in-Chief

Smoky Hill High School faculty informed students last week that their long-standing student journalism class, which runs student news organization Smoky Now, would not be allowed to continue next school year due to low enrollment. The school’s speech and debate class was canceled for the same reason.

According to a Facebook post made by journalism advisor Carrie Faust, the classes were canceled because only 18 students signed up for each. The required minimum class size is 20. However, Faust added, “there are many classes in our building both this year and next year which are below this number.”

Faust declined to comment on the administration’s decision to cancel the journalism class. Smoky Hill junior and current Smoky Now Editor-in-Chief Gloria Namgung said Faust, having already spoken to Smoky Hill Principal Andre Bala herself to fight the decision, told her students it was “very much a student issue” and urged them to take action.

“A couple of my staff and I, we’ve been really trying to schedule appointments with [Bala],” Namgung said. “Because he said he had this open door policy, but, apparently, we have to get an appointment with him, which is gonna have to wait until after spring break.”

Namgung said the staff had also worked to whip up student support using social media and support from Smoky Hill journalist alum Dillon Thomas of CBS News.

Bala declined to comment on the class’s cancellation.

Though Smoky Now currently suffers from low enrollment, they have historically won many awards at the state and national level, including the First Amendment Press Freedom Award from the Journalism Education Association (JEA) in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Additionally, Faust has received multiple distinctions from JEA including the Medal of Merit in 2013.

Retired Colorado Student Media Association (CSMA) Executive Director Jack Kennedy has worked with Faust closely in the past, and commends her for her “connections with the students, openness…and high standards.” Kennedy said the administration’s decision to remove the journalism class could be considered “a form of censorship.”

Having spent decades working with student journalists, Kennedy believes that student journalism is important to all high school communities. “It’s the one place where students really do have a voice,” he said. “If we’re looking for a place for students to express their opinions about current issues, to effect change, it’s kind of the student press or it’s nowhere.”

As a former high school administrator himself, Kennedy believes that students can urge the school to reconsider the class’s cancellation. He said that action is still possible to save Smoky Now.

“Enlist the help of supportive parents to contact the administration,” Kennedy said. “They’re the taxpayers there. They’re kind of the boss.”

Meanwhile, Namgung and other Smoky Now journalists are just hoping to reach their administrators.

“I don’t want any negativity towards [Bala],” Namgung said. “But what I could say to him is we could really use his feedback right now, because it’s a really urgent issue.”

For Namgung and many other students in the program, journalism is an extracurricular home and, they feel, a vital piece of the school community.

“It really helped me step out of my comfort zone,” Namgung said. “It was just nice to have a platform where I can speak about my opinions and use my voice freely…I really hope that our journalism program continues next year because as for right now, Smoky Now, I think we can improve it a lot.”