CALIFORNIA — The parents of a student who admitted using\nillegal drugs in a story published in Alameda High School’s student\nnewspaper filed a formal complaint with the school district in\nOctober.
The student was quoted in an article in The Oak Leaf that\ndetailed the use of drugs at parties known as raves.
The student, a senior, gave written permission allowing the\nuse of her quotations and her identity, and she was offered but\ndeclined the opportunity to review the story before it went to\npress, said Sasha Talcott, editor of The Oak Leaf.
When the article hit the halls of Alameda, it caused a stir\namong the student body. The student denied having given permission\nto quote her in the article, and her parents filed a formal complaint\nwith the district, demanding a retraction and laying the groundwork\nto sue the newspaper.
In an effort to avoid a lawsuit, the student named in the article\nand her parents met with several school officials, Talcott and\nthe newspaper’s adviser to form a compromise.
The superintendent proposed an unusual solution to the problem\n– that Talcott and the quoted student write a joint article about\nthe rave story and people’s reaction to it.
Talcott wrote the article with the other student, even incorporating\nthe student’s parents’ suggestions into it. But when the district\nattorney faxed the student’s parents a copy of the article, they\nsaid it was unacceptable, and that they would not allow their\nchild’s name on the byline.
The superintendent decided that the school and the newspaper\nhad bent far enough and sent the student’s family a letter saying\nthey had done everything they could but the mediation had apparently\nfailed.
As a result of the controversy, the principal decided to establish\nprior review over The Oak Leaf. Although California law\ndoes permit prior review of school-sponsored student publications,\nit does not allow for censorship in most cases. Talcott said she\nfeels the decision is a blow to the freedom of the paper.
“I’m just worried that the principal is going to see an\narticle that he doesn’t like and try to censor it anyway,”\nshe said. “Even if we’re not engaging in libel, obscenity\nor inciting a riot, I’d still feel restricted by him reading the\npaper beforehand.”
Despite the new prior review policy, Talcott said the administration\ndid not suggest the removal of any material from The Oak Leaf’s\nlast issue.