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Freedom of speech at risk for high school journalists?

Skyline High School journalists didn’t make the school’s administration very happy this year when they published stories about a December riot (including a photo of a student’s arrest), a bad teacher and the health benefits of masturbation.

In a letter sent last month to Oakland school board members and district administrators, Editor-in-Chief Damon Mok said Skyline’s principal, Heidi Green, met with his staff this spring and told them some of their work was making the school look bad.

“She told us to watch out what we print in the future, and to present the school in a more positive light for recruitment reasons,” Mok’s letter stated.

Tim Jollymore, an English teacher who has been the newspaper’s adviser for five years, confirmed today that he has been replaced by a newer, nontenured teacher with little or no journalism experience.  “This certainly sets the stage for Ms. Green to pressure someone to put a bright face on Skyline,” he said.

Green couldn’t be reached Wednesday afternoon to give her side of the story. When she does respond, we’ll include her perspective.

Section 48907 of California’s Education Code (click on “Education Code” and type in the number in the search box below) details student journalists’ freedom of speech and says student publications may not be censored. It also says “obscene, libelous or slanderous” material is not allowed, the standard for all newspapers.

We’ll watch what happens.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://www.greenstampede.com Chris Dobbins

    This is a very difficult issue and I am personally torn between being a former editor of a school newspaper and a current school Board Member representing this school. I would like to hear from Ms. Green before commenting.

  • Albert B. Franklin

    In the real world, reporters are just shot, or as Hearst loved to do, bought off!

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  • klab

    its always said people cant say what they want to. this just proves it, a newer person with no experience comes in because the other teacher believes that there should be more then just clouds and ponys. its unreal.