A law that would protect high school and college journalism teachers from being reassigned, fired or otherwise retaliated against because of student speech has passed the Assembly.
This reminds me of one of my first blog posts, last June.
Anyway, here’s the release, sent out Monday:
SACRAMENTO – On a bipartisan 66-5 vote, the California State Assembly today approved legislation to protect high school and college teachers and other employees from retaliation by administrators as a result of student speech, which most often happens when a journalism advisor or professor is disciplined for content in a student newspaper. The bill, which was approved by the Senate in April on a 35-2 vote, only requires a procedural concurrence vote in the Senate before consideration by the Governor.
Senate Bill 1370 by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) follows a 2006 law also authored by Yee which prohibits censorship of student press by administrators and protects students from being disciplined for engaging in speech or press activities.
There have been a number of documented cases throughout the state of journalism advisors being dismissed or reassigned due to student speech. In fact, Senator Yee’s office has learned of cases in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Claremont, Fremont, Novato, Oxnard, Rialto, and Garden Grove.
“With SB 1370, California continues to lead the way in making sure true freedom of the press is alive and well on our campuses,” said Yee. “Allowing a school administration to censor in any way is contrary to the democratic process and the ability of a student newspaper to serve as the watchdog and bring sunshine to the actions of school administrators. It is quite disheartening to hear, that after we specifically prohibited prior restraint by administrators, that some are engaging in this type of nefarious activity and even firing quality teachers because of content in the student newspaper.”
Specifically, SB 1370 would prohibit an employee from being dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against for acting to protect a student’s speech.
A Los Angeles School District case is one of many where a highly respected and successful newspaper advisor was removed from his position. In November 2006, the student newspaper published an editorial criticizing random searches conducted on campus. The newspaper advisor, Darryl Adams, was immediately removed after refusing to eliminate the editorial at the principal’s request.
“In a span of four months, they all but stripped me of my professional existence,” said Adams.
Another case involved Janet Ewell, a Garden Grove tenured teacher and certified journalism educator, who was removed as newspaper advisor in 2002 despite her students winning numerous journalism awards. The school’s principal admitted to student reporters that he had removed Ewell as a result of editorials that ran in the school newspaper. The editorials focused on such issues as the school bathrooms, cafeteria food and a teacher who was unavailable to help students.
Ronnie Campagna, a journalism teacher of 18 years at San Marin High School in Novato, was removed in 2003 and replaced by a new teacher with no previous journalism experience after the student paper published stories critical of the administration. For example, one story criticized the school administration for not letting students stand up in the bleachers during varsity basketball games. The school board went so far as to attempt dissolving the entire program until parents protested and even offered to fund the class themselves.
San Francisco journalism and English teacher Katharine Swan was told that she must find a different school in which to teach after her students covered a first-year principal’s attempts to effect prior restraint and influence coverage of events occurring at the school.
“Since administrators are unable by law to exercise prior restraint with regard to a student publication, they lean on advisers to do what they legally cannot,” said Jim Ewert, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “When advisers refuse, they are punished because administrators know they will face no legal consequences. SB 1370 is necessary to close this gaping loophole in the law.”
Recently, the Newspaper Association of America Foundation released a study that found students who work on high school newspapers and yearbooks are more likely to receive better grades in high school and college as well as score higher on college entrance exams.
In addition to support from CNPA, SB 1370 is endorsed by the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Employees Association, California State Student Association, Associated Students of the University of California (Davis), California School Employees Association, California State University Employees Union, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), State Employees Trades Council, Council of University of California Faculty Associations, Service Employees International Union, California Faculty Association, California Nurses Association, American Civil Liberties Union, and California Labor Federation.