FRESNO, Calif. — High school journalists who fought to publish a series of articles on sexual orientation were finally able to distribute the stories on Nov. 4.
Editors of The Kernal, the student-run monthly publication of East Bakersfield High School, wrote the articles earlier this year based on interviews with homosexual students.
Principal John Gibson banned the articles before they could be published last school year. He said then he feared the students profiled in the stories would be harassed or hurt.
The students sued the school district, but a judge backed the principal's decision until there was a full review of the school's concerns. In October, school officials relented and gave the student newspaper permission to run the stories.
"The principal was wrong to censor these well-researched, balanced articles about a topic that affects teenagers today," said Christine Sun, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which filed the suit on behalf of the students and the Gay-Straight Alliance.
School officials did not return repeated phone calls by the Associated Press for this story.
Several students named in the lawsuit said they were happy to see the long-awaited published articles.
"We didn't want it for ourselves, we wanted to put the stories out there for the students. I'm sad it didn't happen while I was a student, but I'm just happy it finally happened," said Joel Paramo, 18, now a student at Bakersfield College.
Paramo, who was editor in chief of The Kernal last school year, said the lawsuit turned into a national campaign about high school journalism. "If you're silenced on a topic that should be talked about, you should fight to talk about it," he said.
In the articles, students talked about coming out, their relationships and religious opposition to homosexuality.
Bakersfield is a conservative community in California's agricultural Central Valley, but students at East Bakersfield High say they haven't known of any threats against students who are already open about their sexual orientation, and whose names and photos are appearing in news articles around the country.
"It wasn't so much about gay rights. The people in the article have a right to have their stories told. We wanted to tell them," said Travis Mattias, 17, who was the newspaper's features editor last school year.
The school's concerns about student harassment have not played out, Mattias said.
"For the most part everyone is just interested in the stories. I haven't heard any negative feedback yet," he said.