Calif. bill would protect journalism advisers

CALIFORNIA — A new bill introduced Thursday inCalifornia’s Senate would protect high school and college journalismadvisers’ careers from being jeopardized because of student speech.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) sponsored SB1370, which would”prohibit an employee from being dismissed, suspended, disciplined,reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against for acting to protect apupil’s conduct” protected by California state law and the UnitedStates Constitution.

Yee’s communications director, Adam Keigwin, saidthe bill is a reaction to an increased number of instances where administratorspressure, and in some cases retaliate against, advisers over student speech. Thesenator helped pass AB2581 in 2006, which prohibits college administrators onany public California campus from disciplining a student solely on the basis ofhis or her speech. Administrators are now going after those students’faculty advisers and journalism teachers, Keigwin said.

“We have had atleast a dozen cases that we know about throughout the state where teachers havebeen retaliated against for some reason, so we see a huge need for thisbill,” he said.

Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the CaliforniaNewspaper Publishers Association, said his organization asked Yee to sponsor thebill because of the continued pressure on advisers by administrators to engagein the kind of censorship that state law prohibits administrators fromexercising.

“Since the administrators can’t do it,they’re attempting to bully advisers into engaging in thesebehaviors,” he said. “[Administrators] have disciplined or removedadvisers — often very experienced advisers — from newspapers andreplaced them with folks who are either brand new teachers or have little or nojournalism background.”

Of the seven states who have laws protectingstudent speech, Colorado and Kansas are the only two with provisions extendingprotection to journalism advisers. If passed, SB 1370 would be the first lawsolely protecting journalism advisers.

Calls to the Association ofCalifornia School Administrators and the Association of California CommunityCollege Administrators were not returned by Friday afternoon.