Two high schools in California are without student newspapers after administrators near San Diego and in the Bay Area decided to shutter the publications.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a high school in north San Diego County, saying it violated free-speech rights by scrapping its journalism class, shuttering the student newspaper and removing the publication’s faculty adviser.
The dispute centers on two Tomahawk articles — a November 2007 story that reported on the superintendent's alleged refusal to close Fallbrook High School during last year's wildfires, and a May 2008 editorial that questioned abstinence-only sex education.
In its lawsuit filed Nov. 10 in San Diego Superior Court, the ACLU asks that the journalism class be restored and that Dave Evans be returned to his job as faculty adviser.
San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the ACLU also is asking for a court order prohibiting school officials from censoring any future publication of the two articles.
The newspaper quoted David Blair-Loy, legal director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, as saying: “The principal had no right to censor the article or the editorial, and (the principal) unfairly penalized all students by canceling the journalism class in retaliation against Evans for blowing the whistle on his illegal conduct.”
Dan Shinoff, an attorney for the Fallbrook Union High School District, said Principal Rod King felt the story on the wildfires was inaccurate and that the faculty adviser authored the editorial on sex education.
The San Diego newspaper also reported that Shinoff has said the district's decision to cancel the journalism program was directly related to state budget cuts.
Meanwhile, students at a Bay Area high school are decrying the administration's decision to close the school newspaper as a form of censorship.
The Scots Express newspaper at Belmont's Carlmont High School was shut down on Nov. 10.
The newspaper's editor, Alex Zhang, said administrators told him the newspaper was canceled due to its inappropriate content. The first edition included a satirical piece about a student's sexiness.
Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said administrators violated California law if they closed the paper because of its content.
But Principal Andrea Jenoff insisted the newspaper was shut down because it's missing a full-time adviser, and its first edition showed the student reporters and editors needed more help.