CALIFORNIA– Student journalists at a Belmont, Calif., highschool are scheduled to resume publishing their newspaper by January afterschool administrators shut down the paper following publication of acontroversial column.
The cause of the paper’s shutdown was debated after a letter from thevice principal on Nov. 10 gave the reason that “an article that went intopublication in the first issue on page 7 was inappropriate and should not havegone to print,” referring to an opinion column “Jack Dooley — abeautiful man.” In the column, the student author facetiously talked abouthis own sex appeal.
But the school district said the shutdown had nothing to do with contentand everything to do with the newspaper adviser quitting unexpectedly.
Bettylu Smith, spokesperson for the Sequoia Union High School District,said the decision to restart the Scots Express came after a currentEnglish teacher at the school agreed to take on the position. Smith said the newadviser, Raphael Kauffman, also has a degree in broadcast communication and metwith the entire student staff to plan setting up a publications schedule.
“He has this background and this interest and a good deal ofenthusiasm in working with these students and aspires to higher standards increating a quality newspaper,” Smith said.
Smith also said the school plans on working with the San FranciscoPeninsula Press Club to help restore the Scots Express along withrevitalizing other high school newspapers in the Sequoia Union High SchoolDistrict. Smith said there are four high schools in the district.
California State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) publiclyexpressed his anger with the school district a week prior to Kauffman taking theadviser role. Yee’s spokesman, Adam Keigwin, said if the studentjournalists are comfortable with the new arrangement, then Yee is OK with it,too.
“I think he is still a bit taken back by the fact that this happenedand that you had documentation apparently that it was a retaliatory act to shutdown the paper and then kind of backtrack and say it was because of theadviser,” Keigwin said.
Yee is responsible for authoring legislation that protects studentjournalists and their advisers from retaliation and reaffirms their FirstAmendment rights. Keigwin said because of the incident with Carlmont HighSchool, Yee’s office plans on looking into the California Education Codeto see if a revision can be made to require administrators to be trained in theFirst Amendment and how it applies to the student press. If the Education Codecan be revised as Yee wants, Keigwin said California legislators should expectto see a bill this January.