Picayune Students Upset Over "Picture Lie"

Some Picayune High students say they've been deceived by their principal and some teachers. The students say an effort to strengthen the school uniform code crossed a line of trust. They say it also infringed on their right to free speech and punished an "A" student.

Inside the halls of Picayune High, no one thought much about the principal and some teachers snapping photos of students last week. Senior Ryan Penton posed twice, he and his classmates say they were told the snapshots were for the yearbook.

"It's pretty bad to lie to our faces about it," Senior Ryan Penton said.

The "lie" surfaced a few days later in the Picayune Item newspaper article. That's how students found out their photos were used in a presentation to the school board to point out dress code violations.

The article says principal Roy Brookshire told the board students were lead to believe the photos were for the yearbook.

Senior Will Nail didn't like it. He said he felt, "Kind of angry, kind of mad, kind of used."

"We just wanted the students to know what Dr. Brookshire was doing" said junior Justin Sumrall.

Sumrall wanted students to know they'd been had. So he and a few friends made copies of the newspaper article and handed them out.

"We did it in the courtyard of our school during lunch where students didn't have class or were trying to do school work. I circulated it during a free period. [It's] my constitutional right of freedom of speech."

But school officials disagreed. They say all handouts must get clearance, so Justin was suspended.

"The school, we feel, has the right to limit what they would consider freedom of speech if we feel would interfere with the orderly conduct of the school, impair the orderly administration of the school whether it would lead to disorderly conduct by other students," School Board Attorney Gerald Patch said.

Lewis and Joy Sumrall say it's the administrators who are out of line.

"We're very disappointed that it came to this point."

"Justin refused to rat out his friends or faculty members that might have been involved. For that reason, he was given a third day."

The Sumrall's want an apology and for the suspension to be erased from Justin's record.

In a phone conversation Thursday afternoon, Principal Brookshire denied telling the school board that the students were deceived. But when we asked what the students were told, Brookshire said he didn't want to fuel the controversy with more comments.

Meanwhile the Sumrall's are considering legal action and have contacted the American Civil Liberties Union. As for the photos shown to the school board, the superintendent says they might still end up in the yearbook.

by Al Showers