Reporter Tossed From High School p.24

By: M.L. STEIN WHEN ANN Griffith, a reporter for the Antioch, Calif., Ledger Dispatch, went on a high school campus to interview students about the dismissal of a security guard, a policeman forced her to leave in violation of state law.
The violation was pointed out by Tom Newton, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, who stated: "The intent of the existing law is that reporters can walk in or out of campuses without checking in or going through screening in order to monitor public schools in an unfettered way."
In California, he noted, media access to schools is limited only if it is shown that that the media would be a disruptive factor or if they are likely to destroy property.
A CNPA statement said school officials frequently misinterpret the law because they are wary of having journalists on campus.
Griffith was getting student reaction to the firing of the guard, who was found to have a criminal record. The story was particularly timely because a school custodian in a town near Sacramento had been charged with the murder of a high school senior. The suspect is a former gang member with a police record.
The reporter said she had checked in at the principal's office before going on campus, but a secretary, who had spotted her interviewing students, apparently called police.
"When I told the officer I had a right to be there he seemed hesitant," she recalled. "Then, because the school day was about to end, he said I could continue my interviewing on the sidewalk outside the campus."
She said she managed to talk to enough students for a story but said she planned on returning to the campus ? this time without checking in, which is not required by law.
"My editors talked to school officials and I think now they understand my rights," Griffith said.
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?copyright: Editor & Publisher June 28, 1997


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