Saturday, May 21, 2005

Censorchimps: The California Sub-Species

The Censorchimps are howling once again, this time at California's East Bakersfield High School:

Student journalists sued their Bakersfield high school district Thursday in an effort to keep the school's principal from censoring student newspaper articles on homosexuality.

The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, requests an emergency order to allow the paper to publish the stories in The Kernal's year-end May 27 issue.

"The Kernal staff, along with the gay students we interviewed, we have lost our voices," said the paper's editor in chief, Joel Paramo, a plaintiff in the case filed in Kern County court.

Citing issues of school safety and potential violence, East Bakersfield High's Principal John Gibson is attempting to block publication of the articles.
"It's not about gay and lesbians. It's about student safety, he said."
Heh. Mr. Gibson's objections notwithstanding, it seems as though the students' position is on firmer legal ground.
California's education code allows schools to censor student publications if articles are obscene, libelous or slanderous, or incite students "as to create a clear and present danger."

The articles include photos and interviews with gay students discussing their sexual orientation. The reporters obtained written permission from those they interviewed and from the parents of those who were minors.

"No incident in the past led us to believe that those students, who are already open about their sexual orientation, had anything to worry about," Paramo, 18, told reporters Thursday at the ACLU's Los Angeles office.

The plaintiffs include 18-year-old senior Janet Rangle, who was interviewed along with her mother for the paper. She said when she came out as a lesbian, students were either supportive or didn't care.

School district spokesman John Teves expressed concerns about possible violence.

"It's our concern that with the publication of those articles, those students might be in danger or that our campus might be subject to some kind of violence," Teves said.
The school is not asserting that the articles are obscene. The school is citing the "clear and present danger" clause in the Education Code. [E.C. 48907 :scroll down]

The school's argument that censorship is justified due to "safety issues" doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

By attempting to censor the paper, this incident has become a cause célèbre. The school would have been better served to let the students go ahead with the publication of their articles. If the school had permitted it, this incident would have soon been forgotten.
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