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Local student press issues

June 19, 2006

Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil. You’ve heard it before. But it has manifested itself locally in two recent student press issues –one from a high school paper and one from a college newspaper. All the more reason to strengthen student press laws and improve student press right education. What timely occurrences for my mass communications students who are currently working on First Amendment research papers!

See no evil...The high school case comes from La Serna High School in Whittier where students first saw the high school principal violate the California Education Code by demanding prior review of the June issue of the school paper after the May issue included a story about sexual attitudes of high school students. I haven’t seen the paper, but based on what I’ve read on the Student Press Law Center web site and heard from one of the parents of the paper’s editor, at least the principal cited a questionable word search feature as the grounds for the prior review. Still illegal, but …. Let’s face it. Sex is too rampant at high schools, but the see no evil, speak no evil approach is not going to reverse the trend. High school students –and newspapers– NEED to talk about sex, not just the upcoming prom or last Saturday’s baseball score (assuming the local team won!).

The adviser of the paper has been forced to resign as adviser. She feels she’s too liberal to advise the school paper. And the June issue apparently was not printed. This is exactly why prior review is illegal! It leads to self-censorship or, as in this case, real censorship!

I’ve been trying for over a year to recruit the editor to come to Cerritos (her parents are in the same church fellowship group as I am), but was disappointed to hear a couple of weeks ago that she is now thinking about attending a different community college in the area. Too bad. We love students are bold enough to talk about tough issues in news stories.

Then today I heard from a local community college adviser who was called on the carpet for “allowing” students to run a story about two suicides by nursing students at the college. One of the students was named in the article. I’ve read the article and it appears to be a responsible article. I understand why the head of the nursing program feels that it reflects badly on the program, but I’m sorry, two suicides in one school year in a high stress program like nursing is news. The story quotes nursing program personnel who say that investigations have shown no relationship to the program and that the students were doing well in the program. The story is responsible. One might question naming one of the students (everyone is being mum about naming the other), but putting the name on the story makes it more real and important. Nameless, shapeless somebodies makes for bad reporting.

Sorry that I cannot link to the story on the school’s newspaper web site because the story has been pulled from there. But I’ve read the print edition and think it could/should/would run in any community college newspaper of repute.

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