A High School Allegedly Banned Students From Covering A Classmate’s Arrest

Kyra Howard stands for a portrait in front of Plainfield High School in Plainfield, Indiana, on Jan. 24.

Luke Sharrett for BuzzFeed News

“I don’t understand why the administration wouldn’t want us to put out something that’s factual,” said Plainfield High School alum Kyra Howard.

At the beginning of the school year, one of Kyra Howard’s high school classmates abruptly stopped showing up for classes.

Nobody at Plainfield High School in Indiana knew what had happened to the student, Levi Stewart, and school administrators weren’t talking. Some kids guessed he’d been suspended. Among a suburban high school of 1,600 students, his absence was noticed because he was active on campus and a drum major in the state champion school marching band. “He was a prominent kid around school,” said Howard, who as a student journalist may have been more curious than others.

Three weeks went by before local news outlets reported that Stewart had been arrested off campus and accused of a series of sexual assaults. Stewart, 17, was charged as an adult, and court records showed that four girls told police Stewart had threatened, harassed, and physically assaulted them. TV crews soon arrived at the school to cover Stewart’s arrest, and national outlets followed.

Howard, then a 17-year-old senior who worked on the monthly student magazine, the Quaker Shaker, wanted to look into the case. She started reporting but didn’t get far.