Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New law protects journalism teachers

A new law has gone into effect that prohibits school administrators from retaliating against advisors for trying to protect student press freedoms. The LA Times wrote about it, quoting a Peninsula journalism teacher:

    "Any day some story could come to me and my students that would put me in a bad position," said Paul Kandell, a journalism advisor at Palo Alto High School. "Without some security, teachers like me would lose their jobs."
The article also quotes Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, as saying: "If administrators can go after the teachers, then students are going to be less likely to do the bold stories and the investigative stories that the law encourages them to do."

The article concludes with this:
    One of the cases often cited by supporters involved Janet Ewell, who oversaw an award-winning journalism program at Rancho Alamitos High School in Garden Grove. She lost her advisor job in 2002 after her students wrote editorials criticizing filthy bathrooms and bad cafeteria food.

    Ewell, now an English teacher at the school, said Saturday that she sympathized with school administrators, many of whom are under pressure to make their schools look good. "They don't want any bump in their public relations image," she said.

    But the bottom line, Ewell said, is that student newspapers are not publicity newsletters for principals. And she hopes the new law will ensure that stories are published, regardless of how they may be perceived. "It's wonderful to see that people care about First Amendment rights and care about protecting students' rights," she said.

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