Columbia Public Schools Speaks Out About Ferguson Interview

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public School officials spoke out after receiving several complaints from the public after Hickman High School Principal Tracey Conrad made a decision regarding a student interview with Ryan Ferguson.

Journalists from Hickman High School's paper, The Legacy, said Conrad told staff they could not conduct an interview with Ferguson and his mother, Leslie Ferguson. Columbia Public School Superintendent Chris Belcher said the whole situation was a misunderstanding. Belcher said Conrad told the students they couldn't conduct the interview on school property because it would cause a distraction.  

"She was already getting phone calls and she was afraid it was going to disrupt the environment of the school and create potential situations that they couldn't control...that got construed that we said that they couldn't do the story," Belcher said. "What I want to emphasize is we never ever talked about the content of the story. The interview was fine, we don't ever censor interviews in our press."

Word about Conrad's decision spread and sparked outrage across the nation. Belcher said the high school and the school district offices received complaints and threats from all over the United States.

"It's so disappointing that people respond directly to individuals in an angry or hostile way with such little information," Belcher said.  

Ryan Ferguson's father, Bill Ferguson, said the move was in poor taste. He said the decision was meant keep Hickman calm, but has created even more chaos than an interview with Ryan Ferguson would have.

"Now that they have banned him from coming to the school, which we find amazing, now it's disruptive," Bill Ferguson said.  

Belcher said he and members of his staff met with the student journalists on Friday and came to an agreement where they could pursue the story without disrupting school by conducting the interview before or after school hours.

Belcher said Conrad's decision was the right one.