Disputes At 2 California High Schools Center on ‘Sex’ Articles and Shutdown — ACLU Involved in One

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The American Civil Liberties Union has sued a high school in north San Diego County, saying it violated free speech rights by scrapping its journalism class and removing the faculty adviser to the student newspaper.

The dispute centers on two articles?a November 2007 story that reported on the superintendent’s alleged refusal to close Fallbrook High School during last year’s wildfires, and a May 2007 editorial that questioned abstinence-only sex education.

In its lawsuit filed Monday in San Diego Superior Court, the ACLU asks that the journalism class be restored and that Dave Evans be returned to his job as faculty adviser.

Dan Shinoff, an attorney for the Fallbrook Union High School District, says the principal felt the story on the wildfires was inaccurate. and that the faculty adviser authored the editorial on sex education.

Meanwhile, a California high school newspaper was shut down Monday after only one issue. Administrators claim the problem was a lack of supervision. Student staffers say they were censored, according to the San Mateo Daily Journal.

After the Scots Express came out last week, school administrators told the newspaper that it would not publish again because a full-time faculty advisor could not be found, according to the principal. Express editor Alex Zhang said he was told the paper was canceled because of its content, according to the Journal.

The content in question was a humor story in the newspaper’s entertainment section. Called “Jack Dooley — a beautiful man,” the first-person piece involved junior Jack Dooley talking to himself about his “sexy” looks.

At one point, Dooley breaks from declaring his sexiness just long enough to describe taking off his shirt and rubbing baby oil on himself, according to the Journal.

Both Dooley and Zhang say that the piece led to the administration’s
decision to cut the newspaper, which could violate California law. The
Leonard Law specifically prohibits California schools from censoring student writing that is protected as free speech, according to the Student Press Law Center.

“School districts operating one or more high schools and private secondary schools shall not make or enforce any rule subjecting any high school pupil to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside of the campus, is rotected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article 1 of the California Constitution,” the law states.

The administration and students also dispute whether or not the newspaper received funding from the school.

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