Student led paper in Grand Island shut down

Vincent Niewald News Editor

Front page for the pride issue of the Viking Saga. Read the issue at issuu/

Northwest High School in Grand Island, Nebraska, recently shut down its student-run newspaper, the Viking Saga. The shutdown happened just days after the student paper published their June edition, which featured a highlight on LGBTQ pride, and the history of pride month.

According to the superintendent for Northwest Public Schools, it was an administrative decision. Zoka Jenik, a student writer on the staff when it was shut down, was not shocked by the decision.

“Honestly, I wasn’t too surprised as I figured something like this would happen,” Jenik said. “We were expecting some kind of backlash, but not to this extent. After a bit, I was pretty frustrated and upset since a lot of effort was put into our articles with each issue and it’s not fair to take opportunities from other students just because they don’t agree with our opinions and ideals.”

The actions of the administration did not totally come out of nowhere. They had already been requiring students to use birth names, as opposed to their preferred names and pronouns, when crediting the writer of a particular article. Jenik said that students on staff were prepared for some level of backlash, just not to the extent of the total shutdown of the paper.

“We were concerned about backlash from other students, although not so much from administration,”Jenik said. “Once the article was released, we got a lot of threats from the student body, either verbally or threats to hurt people, that the school did minimal things about. However, we didn’t expect any sort of action from the administration based on how they handled the student threats.”

As hard as this event has clearly been on those affected, there is some light to the dark. Jenik said that the support of people from around the nation was amazing. From national news coverage, to representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, people aren’t letting this go.

“It feels great. It’s amazing to know why we do have people in our corner and they’re willing to fight for us and other students who may be going through something similar. I want every LGBTQIA+ individual to know they’re not alone and there are people willing to fight for us,” Jenik said.

The opinion was shared by Marcus Pennell, who was also on staff when the June issue had been published. Pennell said that before the paper’s last issue, there had been no talks of censorship, and the issue had clearly been allowed to be sent to be published. However, seeing the reactions of people across the nation has left Pennell feeling better about the entire situation. Pennell said that this event really helped open his eyes to many of the unjust things that had been occurring.

“I think going back, I would protest a little more, we were told we couldn’t use our chosen names. We were told the punishment of this would fall on our teacher,” Pennell said. “But since all this has been coming out, people have told me, there’s really no law that says they can do that. There’s really no basis for our legal names, but it’s okay. I think I never really wanted the paper to get shut down. That was never my intention at all. But yeah, I think I would’ve done this the same way.”

While Pennell is glad for all of the support, there is still the fact that the paper was shut down. Some are confident that the paper will return, and return just as it was, but Pennell isn’t quite as confident about the return of the Viking Saga.

“I’m not sure to be quite honest. I’m definitely feeling a lot of pressure from a lot of people,” Pennell said. “And if it does come back, I’m a little worried they will censor it. They were still trying to censor it, and they’ll still try and limit what students can write about. But, you know, any step towards getting it back is good.”

Jenik also said that publishing the issue was absolutely worth the consequences, and in fact just goes to show some of the very problems and discrimination displayed within the special edition of the paper. Jenik sent this challenge to those who disagree: Join the paper yourself.

“I still would have gone through with it. Everyone should know about the discrimination that LGBTQIA+ individuals face every day,” Jenik said. “This is just further solidifying we can’t exist without being attacked over it. Everyone argues that the articles should represent the student body, but they were opinion and editorial articles, which represents the newspaper. If they have issues with it, they can join the newspaper.”