(AP) Student journalists sued their Bakersfield high school district Thursday in an effort to keep the school’s principal from censoring student newspaper articles on homosexuality.
The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, requests an emergency order to allow the paper to publish the stories in The Kernal’s year-end May 27 issue.
“The Kernal staff, along with the gay students we interviewed, we have lost our voices,” said the paper’s editor in chief, Joel Paramo, a plaintiff in the case filed in Kern County court.
East Bakersfield High School Principal John Gibson said he blocked publication because he is worried about violence on campus.
“It’s not about gay and lesbians. It’s about student safety,” he said.
Paramo, however, said the principal’s decision “regrettably sends the unmistakable message that school officials would rather students keep closeted about their sexual orientation.”
California’s education code allows schools to censor student publications if articles are obscene, libelous, or slanderous, or incite students “as to create a clear and present danger.”
The articles include photos and interviews with gay students discussing their sexual orientation. The reporters obtained written permission from those they interviewed and from the parents of those who were minors.
“No incident in the past led us to believe that those students, who are already open about their sexual orientation, had anything to worry about,” Paramo, 18, told reporters Thursday at the ACLU’s Los Angeles office.
The plaintiffs include, 18-year-old senior Janet Rangle, who was interviewed along with her mother for the paper. She said when she came out as a lesbian, students were either supportive or didn’t care.
Gibson’s decision “made me feel like I was back where I was — in the closet again, hiding,” Rangle said.
Bakersfield, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is known as a conservative community, but Paramo said students at East Bakersfield High are tolerant for the most part.
School district spokesman John Teves expressed concerns about possible violence.
“It’s our concern that with the publication of those articles, those students might be in danger or that our campus might be subject to some kind of violence,” Teves said.