Editorial: Los Angeles high school paper deserves First Amendment right

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It is normal to see aspiring journalists questioned while seeking the truth. It is rare, however, to see student-run publications penalized for it.

Daniel Pearl Magnet High School’s journalism adviser, Adriana Chavira, got suspended without pay for publishing a story that named a librarian who refused to comply with the district’s COVID-19 mandate.

Ironically, Daniel Pearl High School was named after an American journalist who was murdered by terrorists for doing his job.

We stand in solidarity with the student journalists and their instructor.

Chavira did what any good adviser would do and stood up for her staff at The Pearl Post against the attempted censorship by school administrators. Newspaper advisers do not stand in the way of their students’ First Amendment rights, and California has more protections than most for student journalists.

The day after her suspension was announced, Chavira — via Twitter — cited state education codes that say: “Pupils of the public schools, including charter schools, shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press including, but not limited to, the use of bulletin boards, the distribution of printed materials or petitions, the wearing of buttons, badges, and other insignia, and the right of expression in official publications …”

The code also protects instructors and discusses prior restraint, which our Viewpoints advisers explain to us during the first week of class means that they will never demand to look at our articles before they go to print.

Luckily, organizations like the Student Press Law Center, along with other great journalism organizations, fight for us when needed.

It is common to have to educate instructors, staff members and administrators during any given semester, especially when we make the occasional, inevitable mistake. And we do our best to hold ourselves accountable and soak in the biweekly critiques of Viewpoints.

However, what took place at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School is unacceptable. 

The bedrock of any democracy is the freedom of the press. And college and high school publications are more essential than ever — especially in Southern California where many local dailies are under the umbrella of a hedge fund. Those remaining reporters do incredible work given the resources they have, but it’s rare to have dedicated reporters for each city, let alone a specific education beat.

What happened to Chavira is appalling and if it’s a sign of a new trend in education we are all doomed.

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