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New law protects school journalism advisors

This most precious of our rights, freedom of speech, protected by the First Amendment, is the foundation of journalism, whose code of ethics and principles our high schools and universities instill in our next generation.

They teach truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and the necessity of public accountability – as these apply to the discovery of newsworthy information and its dissemination to the public.

Application of these principles often creates fierce opposition from administrators, whose questionable or negligent actions are exposed. They have often retaliated against journalism instructors and students, as we well know.

In the last three years at least 15 California high school journalism advisors lost their jobs or were reassigned by administrators because articles were critical. A Garden Grove teacher lost her job because student writers criticized filthy bathrooms and bad cafeteria food.

Effective January 1 a new California law went into effect to protect instructors and students. The new Journalism Teacher Protection Act prohibits administrators from retaliating against instructors for trying to protect student press freedoms.

This law, the most stringent in the nation, clamps down on campus censorship and protects the jobs of instructors.

If administrators can go after teachers, students are less likely to do the bold stories and serious investigative journalism which nurtures a well-informed society.

The bottom line is, student newspapers are not publicity newsletters for school principles.

Vigorous journalism and free speech are vital to a healthy and progressive society.

Joe Howard Crews

 

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