Cedar Shoals High School’s student newspaper, BluePrints, won a national award for its reporting on the controversy surrounding an appointed school board member earlier this year.
The Student Press Law Center gave the Courage in Student Journalism Award to BluePrints staffers Stephany Gaona-Perez, Brittany Lopez and Jacqueline Wright. The student journalists, advised by English teacher Marc Ginsberg, discovered that school board member Antoine Stephens had not graduated from Cedar Shoals in 2014, as he implied when seeking a vacant seat on the board. They subsequently found that Stephens was legally too young to serve in Congress when he ran for a Northeast Georgia congressional seat prior to being appointed to the school board and that he had lied about money he raised during a run for mayor in 2018.
After BluePrints and other news outlets revealed these facts, Stephens announced that he would seek treatment for mental health issues and would not run for a full term. Kirrena Gallagher won the June election and will take over the seat in January.
“These young journalists braved public ridicule and stonewalling as they methodically pursued public documents and asked probing questions of a major institution in their community,” Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said in a news release. “Accountability reporting is the bedrock of local journalism, and these students provided an essential public service by making their local school board more transparent.”
The award, which carries a $1,000 prize, was presented during a virtual ceremony on Nov. 21.
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