Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Axe Falls in Woodlan

By Shawn Healy
The fallout from the school newspaper controversy at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School outside of Ft. Wayne, IN, continues to grow as journalism teacher Amy Sorrell will apparently be fired for a list of seven grievances that includes insubordination, neglect of duties, and inability to perform her teaching responsibilities. She permitted a pro-gay editorial to run in the student paper, sparking an investigation, and the ascension of Principal Ed Yoder to the position of official censor.

The bitter irony centers on the charge of changing the curriculum without administrative approval. Instead of working on the student newspaper, Sorrell had her students study First Amendment Supreme Court cases. Imagine that in a class premised on the exercise of the same amendment!

The loser here is the student newspaper. Megan Chase, the author of the infamous article, said she probably not write again next year minus Sorrell, as Yoder's actions took the "fun" away from the process.

Sorrell has a right to call for a public hearing over her dismissal, and it appears likely she will do so. Expect Sorrell's students to rally to her cause, exercising those same five freedoms she apparently detailed in her classroom.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at