HSJ Headline News
School shuts down paper
The Daily Journal
November 11, 2008
An administrative decision to cancel the Carlmont High School newspaper yesterday for “lack of supervision,” has reporters and editors feeling censored.
The decision might also be against California law, according to the Student Press Law Center.
One week after the Scots Express hit news stands at the Belmont school, two students were told the paper would no longer print due to the content of the paper — particularly a satirical look by one student about his own sexiness. The Carlmont administration said the cancellation came after months of struggling to find a long-term advisor for the club.
Express editor Alex Zhang explained he was told the paper was canceled due to its inappropriate content. Principal Andrea Jenoff, on the other hand, explained the student paper needs a full-time advisor. The first edition made it clear the students needed more help, which is not available at the moment, she said.
If the decision was content based, it goes against California law, explained Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center executive director. California has two layers of protection for student writers: The First Amendment and the Leonard Law, which prohibits schools from disciplining students for protected speech.
Unless the story causes a true disruption, it is protected, said LoMonte, who added canceling the paper is the ultimate form of censorship.
The decision discouraged state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, the author of a new law protecting high school teachers and school employees from retaliation as a result of student speech.
The idea that children could learn that their ideas can and will be censored also did not sit well with Yee, who hoped the administration would reconsider its decision.
The Scots Express began as a club publishing in March. So far this school year, the paper published one edition — which came out last week. Within the entertainment section was a humor story called “Jack Dooley — a beautiful man,” written by junior Jack Dooley.
The narrative piece is a first-person interview with Dooley essentially talking to himself about his looks.
“ ... I am sexy. And I don’t mean that like my physical attributes can be described as sexy, that’s a given. What I mean is, I embody sexy. I am that word. That word is me. I am sexy,” Dooley wrote. At one point, Dooley describes himself taking off his shirt and rubbing baby oil on himself before once again declaring his sexiness.
The idea began as a joke for Dooley who frankly thought few people would read the paper and therefore expected little response, he said. After the paper came out, Dooley began being called sexy in the hall, he said.
On Monday, Dooley and Zhang were called into the office and told the content led to the decision to cancel the newspaper, they both said.
Zhang also pointed out that the paper’s first edition was self-funded since advertising sales covered the costs.
Jenoff disputed this and noted the club received an allocation from the school site council.
Zhang, who sits on the site council, was not aware of any allocation.
Copyright 2008, The Daily Journal. Reprinted with permission