The Student Press Law Center calls for the immediate withdrawal of the disciplinary matter against journalism educator Adriana Chavira, and for her personnel record to be expunged.
Chavira was informed on Sept. 1, that she was being suspended for three days without pay and a disciplinary notice was being put in her personnel file due to her refusal to remove information from a story published in the Pearl Post, the independent newspaper at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS) in Lake Balboa, California, where Chavira is the long-time adviser. The story reported on the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate on school staff and noted that after the vaccine mandate was put in place, the school librarian did not show up for school. The former librarian demanded that any reference to her be removed from the story.
California lawmakers anticipated exactly what is happening at DPMHS today and passed a law to prevent it. In 1977, California led the nation in passing the first state law specifically protecting the editorial freedom of the state’s high school student journalists. The law was subsequently amended to include specific protection for student media advisers who were the frequent targets of administrators who could no longer censor their students directly. California’s law has been the model adopted by 15 other states to date and currently under consideration by several more.
SPLC executive director Hadar Harris said, “The actions taken against Adriana Chavira are wrong on every level. Censorship is wrong. Retaliation against teachers is wrong. And in California there is a specific law that says that this is illegal. It is mind-boggling that a nationally-recognized educator at a journalism magnet school named to honor a slain journalist is suspended for the solid reporting of her students, in direct contravention of California’s student free expression law which specifically protects against situations like this. We all need to stand up and demand justice.”
Harris went on, “Retaliatory actions by school administrators against teachers are designed to pressure journalism educators and advisers to censor their students. The administrators at the Daniel Pearl Magnet School need to abide by the law and support student journalism – and excellent journalism educators like Adriana Chavira. We call on them to do the right thing and reinstate Ms. Chavira immediately.”
Daniel Pearl Magnet High School was named for Daniel Pearl, who was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. In 2002, he was kidnapped while working and later killed by terrorists in Pakistan, just a few months after 9/11. Following his murder, Pearl’s family and friends established the Daniel Pearl Foundation to “carry on his legacy, using music and words to address the root causes of the hatred that took his life.”
The Student Press Law Center (splc.org, @splc) is an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit working at the intersection of law, journalism and education to support, promote and defend the rights of student journalists and their advisers at the high school and college levels. Based in Washington, D.C., the Student Press Law Center provides information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.