Is district trying to censor students?

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Is district trying to censor students?

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In our last issue, The Californian published a story on an alleged physical conflict between a student and a teacher.

Californian adviser Brian Barr received an email from Principal Mark Corti the day of publication highlighting district policy and  explaining the district’s concerns with the article.

We were told “the article should have been delayed or not published because of concerns with the following: protecting the rights of the student and the teacher (confidentiality), the district is investigating the incident, [and it is a] safety issue.”

Also highlighted was the section of board policy 5145.2 that states that student freedom of expression should be limited to protect the rights, health and safety of all members of the school community.

Historically, other high schools in the district have faced much more, possibly illegal, restrictions from their administrators, as this paper reported in the 2010-11 school year.

The Californian considers itself lucky to have fair administrators that do not overly restrict student publications.

Although district and  school administrators have not censored The Californian, the district is acting in a heavy-handed fashion by attempting to lean on the rights of student journalists to prevent the paper from publishing controversial stories that place Cal High and the district in a bad light.

The purpose of The Californian is to inform students, parents and teachers about important events that occur on campus or in relation to their lives. We do not make a profit for selling issues, and the staff is not paid in any way.

Since the publication of the November story, we have been spoken to by Corti about withholding other stories. Again, protecting student and teacher rights and safety issues were cited as reasoning for the story either being delayed or simply not published.

This is not prior restraint as nothing has been ordered or censored – yet.  It has been simply suggested for the benefit of the school.  But this is clear posturing on the issue as reasoning for future censorship levied against this publication.

The Californian takes issue with this, and not because it is harmful to the paper. Their enforcement of these policies is based on faulty analysis and misinterpretation of the law.

The district policy cited states that student publication shall be limited only as allowed by law.

State education code 48907, which is state law, prevents the restriction of student freedom of speech unless it is obscene, libelous, or incites students to commit dangerous or unlawful acts and disrupts the functioning of the school.

The district’s manner of enforcing board policy 5145.2 would violate state law.

District administrators need to reconsider their interpretation of the district policy before attempting to enforce it again.