From the Editor: Why we removed student names from the Senior Destinations Map


By Ben Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief

Longtime readers of The Spoke may notice that the annual Senior Destinations Map looks different this year.

Since 1964, The Spoke has routinely published voluntarily-divulged information about where the members of Conestoga’s graduating class will spend their immediate future. The presentation of this information has changed shape over the years, transforming from a black-and-white list of seniors planning on attending a college or university to a colorful and elaborate display of all post-high school plans — from gap years and study abroad programs to vocational schools and armed forces enlistments.

However, throughout the past six decades, one facet remained constant: The Spoke always attached graduates’ names to their post-high school plans.

This year, Tredyffrin/Easttown School District administration attempted to censor the publication of the Senior Destinations Map due to concerns that it is harmful to some students. While reasonable in intention, the district stepped beyond its legal rights.

With support from First Amendment advocacy organizations including the Student Press Freedom Initiative of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, the Student Press Law Center, the Journalism Education Association and the Pennsylvania School Press Association, The Spoke stood up for its constitutional rights to freedom of speech and of the press. TESD administration reversed course and allowed the Editorial Board to make its own journalistic decisions as it saw fit.

So, that’s what we did. After days of discussion, in a 12-10 vote, the Editorial Board decided to remove student names from the 2023 Senior Destinations Map. The Editorial Board made this decision autonomously and without pressure from district officials.

As Editor-in-Chief, I respect and honor the outcome of this vote and all future votes the Editorial Board takes; however, I maintain concerns about the decision.

Withholding the publication of facts — in this case, student names — falls short of the standards of journalistic integrity that the Associated Press lays out and to which The Spoke aspires.

I understand the concerns that some may misuse the information in the Senior Destinations Map to stigmatize post-graduation plans and that others may be the target of such reproach. These are valid worries and the district should do everything in its power to ensure that its students feel safe and supported. Despite this, I firmly believe that the map does not cause these problems, nor does removing student names resolve them.

The media’s choice to refrain from publishing information is not the answer. As a school and community, we must focus on building adolescent resiliency and fostering a cultural shift away from judgment and toward acceptance of differences.
Until we see this shift, the misuse of facts to cause harm will continue to inhibit the media’s primary function: reporting the news.

Ben Shapiro can be reached at [email protected].