Calif. principal removes newspaper's prior review requirement

CALIFORNIA — After a five-day battle over prior review, the studentnewspaper of the Orange County High School of the Arts (OCHSA) will resumepublication Sept. 18.

Principal Sue Vaughn instituted mandatory prior review of Evolutionafter reading an advance copy of the first issue of the paper, a requirementthe paper’s adviser, Konnie Krislock, was unwilling to accept. The matterwas resolved during a nearly two-hour meeting with Vaughn, Assistant PrincipalMichael Ciecek, Krislock and the paper’s student leaders Sept. 15, whenthe administrators admitted they did not understand California’s stateeducation code regarding student free expression, according to Krislock. Vaughnand Ciecek agreed to retract their requirement of prior review.

Vaughn and Ciecek originally ordered printing of the first issue of theschool’s six-page student newspaper be stopped Sept.10 after they reviewedthe advance copy dropped off by Editor-in-Chief Taylor Erickson Sept. 9. Theissue was to have been distributed during the day and at a back-to-school eventlater that night, Krislock said.

Vaughn, who did not respond to calls by press time, told the OrangeCounty Register she had stopped printing of Evolution in reaction totwo articles — one about OCHSA’s theme of the year and one about aChristian-based food vendor. Vaughn said the first article had errors needingcorrections, and questioned the relevance of the second. She told theEditor-in-Chief the issue could run as soon as the errors were fixed, and shespoke to the author of the food vendor article.

Krislock said because nothing in the two articles was obscene, libelous ordisruptive, she believes the school officials’ actions constitutedcensorship according to the State of California’s education code, whichstates, “Students of the public schools shall have the right toexercise freedom of speech and of thepress…except that expression shallbe prohibited which is obscene, libelous, or slanderous…”

I know what the law is,” Krislock said beforeyesterday’s meeting. “I’m 68 years old and I’ve beeninvolved in scholastic journalism since I was 14. This is a cross I will die on — I will never let them censor the newspaper. Ever.”

Krislock said if school officials were determined to enforce mandatoryprior review, she would rather be removed as an adviser than allow it.

The front-page article of Evolution declared the school year’stheme would be “bold and spicy,” a theme that Vaughn claimed wasnever instituted, Krislock said.

“In the faculty meeting on the 24th, [Vaughn] presented that theme tous,” Krislock said. “We don’t have any new programs this year,so she said she just wanted us to spice up what we have and be bold ineverything we teach. I think now maybe she thinks that looked toorisque.”

Vaughn was also concerned with the story regarding the school’s newfood vendor, Alegre Foods, which the article says identifies itself as a”Christian-based company” whose “purpose” is to serveGod. Vaughn told the Register that including the company’s”purpose” was irrelevant to the story and that she wanted to have adiscussion with the writer.

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, saidhad the school instituted prior review it would have been censorship because itis in violation of Section 48907 of California’s education code.

“It’s still unfair to institute prior review if you justdon’t like what’s written,” he said. “If you are goingto stop something from being printed that’s not obscene or libelous,that’s censorship.”

Krislock said she thought with prior review the students would be moreapprehensive about tackling stories that could be perceived as controversial inthe future, and that they would want to write fewer articles, but she told the Register the student leaders of the paper are confident about resumingpublication.