Thursday, September 13, 2007

State's high court backs student journalist

The California Supreme Court — in its third pro-media ruling in three weeks — has refused to hear the Novato school district's challenge of a ruling that upheld a student's right to write an anti-illegal immigration editorial for the student newspaper (Chron) (BCN). The school district was appealing a ruling in May by the Court of Appeal in favor of student Andrew Smith, who now attends Santa Rosa Junior College and is in the Marine Corps reserves.

Smith was a high school senior when his school paper printed his editorial on Nov. 13, 2001 that suggested people who can't speak English should be suspected of being illegal immigrants and that a number of undocumented immigrants are criminals. School administrators collected all remaining copies of the newspaper and sent parents a letter apologizing for the editorial and saying it should never have been published. Smith then sued the district, contending the school's action violated his rights under a 1971 California law. The law gives public school students the right of free expression unless their material is obscene or slanderous or incites others to commit illegal acts or disrupt "the orderly operation of the school."

On Aug. 27, the California Supreme Court issued two pro-media rulings, one requiring state and local governments disclose the names and salaries of their employees and a second giving the public the right to inspect hiring records of police agencies.

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