NEWJERSEY — A federal district court issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that will reinstate a student newspaper adviser who was removedfor what students claim was retaliation for stories theyprinted.
Three editors at the Ocean County College student newspaper,the Viking News, filed a lawsuit in May against college President JonLarson and several other administrators after the school removed longtimenewspaper adviser Karen Bosley. The lawsuit alleges that Bosley’s removalwas the result of retaliation for several stories the newspaper wrote criticalof the school’s administration. The preliminary injunction is adecision that will allow Bosley to continue to advise the
Viking News while the lawsuit isunderway. Bosley has filed a similar separate lawsuit.
In his opinion, JudgeStanley R. Chesler wrote that the school’s decision to remove Bosley hadviolated the students’ First Amendment rights.
Chesler wrotethat ”granting such an injunction is an extraordinary measure that shouldonly be done in limited circumstances,” but that in this case, ”itis clear that such a retaliatory removal would, nonetheless, have animpermissibly chilling effect on the paper’s student editors’freedom of expression in future issues of the paper, and inflict irreparableharm on the Plaintiffs.”
Bosley said that her lawyer hadadvised her not to comment, but she said she is ”very happy about thedecision.”
The court denied preliminary injunctions onfour other claims the students made. Among other things, the students had alsoasked that the court bar one of the defendants, Director of Student Media JosephAdellizi, from accessing the newspaper office and ”exercising prior reviewon the paper’s articles and editorials.” The court said that therewas not enough evidence that Adellizi had attempted such control.
ButAlberto Morales, the news and photography editor of the
Viking News and one of the plaintiffsin the case, said the students have for now achieved their mainobjective.
”Some of the things we didn’t get, but themain thing was to get our adviser back,” he said. ”We’reextremely happy, all of us. It’s really, reallygreat.”
And although the case is not finished yet, Morales saidhe thinks the preliminary injunction is a good sign for student pressrights in general, in light of the Hosty v.Carter decision in the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case,student journalists at Governors State University in Illinois sued their school,but the court ruled in June 2005 that administrators could have some controlover student newspapers in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. The Supreme Courtdecided not to hear the case.
“With what happened with theHosty case, and how after
Hosty … a lot of people have tried totake advantage of the Hosty decisioneven though it doesn’t apply to their states, I’m just happy that afederal court in New Jersey said otherwise,” Morales said. ”It’sgood that they saw something wrong, and that a little piece of the student presswas defended. But there’s still more, we’re not doneyet.”
Angelo Stio, an attorney with Pepper Hamilton LLP who isrepresenting the students in the case, also said he is pleased with thedecision.
”We’re happy with the decision, our clients arehappy with the decision, and we look forward to having the opportunity to proveto the court that this preliminary injunction should be made into apermanent injunction,” Stio said.
Tara Kelly, Ocean CountyCollege public relations director and one of the defendants in the lawsuit, didnot return calls forcomment.