A California Court of Appeal found a high school violated the freepress rights of a student newspaper columnist when the school claimed hiscontroversial editorial on immigration was illegal and should not have beenpublished.
The case began in 2002 when Andrew D. Smith, a former studentat Novato High School and current U.S. Marine, authored two opinion pieces forhis school’s student newspaper, The Buzz.
The firstcontroversial editorial, titled “Immigration,” contained derogatory statementsabout Mexican immigrants and listed reasons why Smith thought immigration lawsare ineffective. Another, “Reverse Racism,” which explored Smith’s views oneverything from school fights to the O.J. Simpson case, was delayed buteventually published with a counter article.
The unanimous decisionby a three-judge panel held that the column was “not inciting speech that theDistrict was authorized to prohibit under [the California Education Code].” California’s statutory protections for high school journalists, EducationCode section 48907, were enacted in 1977.
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SPLCView: This is a significant win for California’s high school student mediaand reaffirms the value of state student free press laws. As the court herefound, the fact that the self-professed conservative student’s viewpoints mighthave been “unpopular” or “unsophisticated” did not mean they were less deservingof legal protection. Quoting earlier Supreme Court rulings, the judge noted,”Any word spoken, in class, in the lunchroom, or on the campus, that deviatesfrom the views of another person may start an argument or cause a disturbance.But our Constitution says we must take this risk…and our history says that itis this sort of hazardous freedom — this kind of openness — that is the basisof our national strength and of the independence and vigor of Americans who growup and live in this relatively permissive, often disputatious, society.”
Case: Smith v. Novato Unified Sch. Dist., No. A112083 (Cal.1st. App. Dist. May 21, 2007)