CALIFORNIA — Students at the East Union High Schoolin Manteca got a first-hand lesson in freedom of expression whenthe principal decided to stand by a student journalist after aneditorial she wrote sparked protest among her peers because ofits anti-gay stance.
Nichole Sanchez, editor of the Lance, wrote an editorialin January that complained about television programming that shefound offensive. Among the most disturbing recent trends in heropinion is the proliferation of scenes including gay affection– same-sex touching and kissing — on popular television shows.
"Homosexuality is a controversial subject that I don’tthink should be exposed on television like it is a natural wayof living," Sanchez said in her editorial. "I do notfeel that that type of lifestyle is right and I do not think thatit should be taking place at all."
Some students organized a protest against Sanchez’s editorial,hanging signs around the school bearing slogans like "Don’thate if you’re straight" and "We’re here, we’re queer,get used to it."
Sanchez said she was sorry she offended people but refusedto apologize for her opinion.
Principal Roger Hartman defended Sanchez’s right to expressherself.
"She has a right to her opinion as long as she doesn’tdefame groups or individuals," he said. He said no studentsor teachers complained to him about the editorial, and that itdid not disrupt classes.
Terry Francke, general counsel for the California First AmendmentCoalition, said that student editorials are protected under California law, except whenthey are slanderous, obscene or disruptive of classes. California is one of six states with a student free-expression law.
"The school could not have lawfully prevented its publication,nor can school authorities discipline the student," Franckesaid of Sanchez’s editorial. "They’re protected in havingunpopular or offensive ideas."
Read the California student free-expression law, section 48907 of the California Education Code, in our law library.