A California high school student media adviser and student journalist have threatened legal action after school officials removed the adviser and cut the school’s introductory journalism class.
Hanna Olson, editor-in-chief of the Mountain View High School student newspaper The Oracle, and adviser Carla Gomez allege the actions were retaliation for an article last spring about incidents of sexual harassment at the school, which students said they felt compelled to significantly water down after pressure from the principal.
Olson said principal Kip Glazer came to their newsroom in late March to tell her and her classmates that their article would lead to “catastrophic consequences” for the school if published. The students claim that Glazer also told them the student newspaper should only present the school in a “positive light.”
California attorney Jean Paul Jassy sent a letter to school officials in the Mountain View Los Altos High School District last week demanding, among other things, that they acknowledge and apologize for the censorship and that the school fully reinstate the journalism program with Carla Gomez as adviser. They also demanded that school officials promise to refrain from future censorship and interference with the student newspaper.
Jassy and his law firm, Jassy Vick Carolan, are representing Gomez and Olson pro bono. Student Press Law Center attorneys have worked with the students since the spring and connected them with Jassy, who is part of SPLC’s nationwide volunteer Attorney Referral Network.
California is one of 17 states to have passed a New Voices law that provides student journalists with specific legal protections from administrative censorship. California’s law, Education Code 48907, also prevents school officials from taking retaliatory action against student media advisers who stand up for their student’s legal rights.
“Principal Glazer’s actions are clear violations of California’s Education Code, and the Student Press Law Center urges Mountain View High School to reinstate adviser Carla Gomez and the journalism class,” SPLC Executive Director Gary Green said. “This is precisely the kind of in-depth journalism that the California legislature intended to protect with the New Voices law.”
View the Letter
The Student Press Law Center (splc.org, @splc) is an independent, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit working at the intersection of education, journalism and the law to promote, support 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.