Students sue community college district for putting restrictions on campus speech

CALIFORNIA -- Welcome to Irvine Valley College, where the fight for free speech by professors and students has been going on for more than two years.

Along with faculty members (see Professor), students are upset over what they say are violations of their First Amendment rights that started when Raghu Mathur became president of the college. Some students have even decided to sue the school.

Irvine Valley students Diep Burbridge, Scott Stephansky and Dorothy Caruso filed a lawsuit in August against the South Orange Community College District, saying that their rights to free expression were being violated.

"President Mathur, certain administrators and board of trustee members were strategically suppressing students and faculty and reducing us to second-class citizens," Caruso said.

The students claim that the school is infringing on their rights by regulating where they can gather, post messages and pass out fliers.

"Suddenly, little glass boxes encased under lock and key showed up on our outside bulletin boards," Caruso said.

Education Department to launch online crime statistics database

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Department of Education plans to launch an online campus crime statistics database this year, requiring colleges and universities to submit their crime statistics to the department electronically.

The Web site will provide campus crime statistics from colleges and universities from 1996 through 1998, the same data that should have been made available to the public on campuses last fall.

High school students face punishment for speech

The author of a student newspaper column that resulted in an outbreak of racial tension at Florida's Gulf Coast High School in Naples will no longer be permitted to have her byline published in the newspaper.

The school principal told Tiffany Thompson, co-editor of The Gulf Coastline, in April that she will still be able to do layout work and co-write stories but will not be able to write any more articles herself.

The commentary Thompson wrote for the March issue, titled "Can I be brutally honest: homie G the enemy," criticized the rap music industry for the role models it creates.

Judge orders university to turn over hazing records to local newspaper

VERMONT -- The upperclassmen of the University of Vermont ice hockey team called it tradition.

"It's going to be the worst, best night of your life," reported a freshman hockey player to state investigators, describing what a senior team member told him regarding the "Big Night."

On that "Big Night" in October, Corey LaTulippe was forced to walk in line like an elephant, cradling the genitals of a fellow freshman walking directly ahead, according to a report from the state attorney general's office.

Administrator bans criticism in paper after editorial attack on cafeteria food

WASHINGTON -- After receiving complaints from cafeteria workers over a student newspaper commentary that called school lunches "gross," the principal of Whitman Middle School in Seattle prohibited the publication of anything in The Source "that is critical of or might be construed as critical of any Whitman staff member or program."

"It is important that our staff works as a team and that concept is jeopardized if we are publicly critical of each other or allow students to publicly criticize staff members, especially in print," principal Jane Lambert said in a memo.

But newspaper adviser Maggie Everett called the principal's directive censorship.

Professor wins lawsuit against administration

CALIFORNIA -- A federal judge ordered the administration of Irvine Valley Community College to pay a professor $126,000 in January for violating his free-speech rights by trying to censor his satirical newsletters.

The lawsuit came after Cedric Sampson, chancellor of the South Orange County Community College District, told philosophy professor Roy Bauer in December 1998 that his satirical newsletters, the Vine and the Dissent, were causing a hostile working environment.

Student papers turn to insurance for protection from libel lawsuits

As the economy fosters more ad revenue for student newspapers, many editors and general managers are considering an investment in libel insurance. Libel insurance, which provides liability coverage for media if they are sued for libel, can protect the financial stability of a media organization. Many critics, however, say coverage is often unnecessary -- especially for smaller papers.

Kelly Wolff, general manager of the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, which publishes three student publications and operates a student-run television and radio station, said she was glad the company had insurance both times it was sued for libel.

Although the lawsuits were both eventually thrown out on appeal, Wolff said having insurance gave the company peace of mind.

"I think that is the reason for having it," Wolff said, "Mistakes happen. People can sue somebody whenever they want to, whether they really have a case or not."

Wolff would not disclose the particulars of the company's policy with the Arizona-based Scottsdale Insurance Company, but said the paper's total yearly budget is between $600,000 and $700,000.

"If our corporation lost a lawsuit that wasn't covered by insurance, we might not exist," Wolff said.