College officials confiscate 4,000 student newspapers, return them a day later

CALIFORNIA — One day after confiscating 4,000 copiesof the student newspaper, East Los Angeles College officials returnedthe papers to racks around campus, saying First Amendment rightsoutweighed their concerns about student security at the school.

A front-page photo in the Mar. 7 issue of Campus Newsthat possibly showed a witness to a student murder on campus promptedcollege administrators to confiscate the papers, which constitutemost of the News’ 5,000-copy press run. Daniel Ornelas,dean of student development and services said he decided to confiscatethe papers after receiving advice from both the sheriff’s departmentand the college’s legal counsel.

The sheriff’s department denied advising the college to confiscatethe papers.

College officials returned the papers to campus distributionracks on Thursday at about 10:30 a.m. The college’s president,Ernest Moreno, refused to apologize for the administrators’ actions,telling The Los Angeles Times that while student editors’First Amendment rights "had top priority," the administratorswho took the papers "did the right thing."

But the Campus News’ problems continued. A professionalreporter on campus covering the confiscation noticed a studentstealing some of the newspapers Thursday evening.

Campus News adviser Jean Stapleton said the reportertold her the papers were being taken, and she told the studenteditors to go to the distribution racks and retrieve the remainingpapers. The editors then posted signs letting students know theycould pick up copies of the paper from the Campus Newsoffice.

Juan Aceves, editor of the Campus News, said he doesnot know why the student took the papers.

Stapleton said the sheriff’s department is refusing to investigatethe theft.