Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hero of the Day!

And if it were up to me, Ms. Ann Long should get a full ride to the Columbia Journalism School.

Ann Long wrote an article in the December 17 issue of The Oracle, the student newspaper at Troy High School in Fullerton, CA. Hey, they've even won awards! Ann's article was about gay teens and profiled three of her fellow students. She worked on the article in concert with her academic advisor, but after publication the school decided she'd broken one of the rules. You see, there's a California state law that says one can't ask about sexual orientation, and a host of other things. At least that's the excuse the school is giving for firing Ms. Long from her Editor position, in a story from PEN.

The California law in question, from the Student Press Law Center:
Section 51513 of the California Education Code reads, "No test, questionnaire, survey, or examination containing any questions about the pupil’s personal beliefs or practices in sex, family life, morality, and religion…shall be administered to any pupil in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12…unless the parent or guardian of the pupil is notified in writing."

Of course, the law hasn't been applied that way before, and according to experts, including an official with the California Board of Education, it was never intended to be used to that end:
A representative for the California Department of Education said that section 51513 has not been cited before in cases involving student newspapers.

"It applies, we believe, to tests and questionnaires that the district asks the students to answer," said Tina Jung, an information officer for the state department of education.

Mark Child, director of the Journalism Education Association’s Southern California chapter, said he is "well-versed" in the law and does not believe section 51513 is applicable to Long’s situation.

"I am unaware of anything that says you necessarily need to get a parent’s consent before you cover the student [in a student newspaper] from the standpoint of sexual orientation or preference, religious preference or anything like that," Child said.

The executive director of the Student Press Law Center, Mark Goodman, also says section 51513 was wrongly applied.

"This law has nothing to do with students talking to other students," Goodman said.

"In fact, other sections of the California Education Code specifically protect the free press and free expression rights of students," Goodman added, referring to sections 48907 and 48950, which limit school officials’ ability to censor or punish students for their expression.

The ACLU also weighs in.

It certainly doesn't shock ASZ readers that the hatred Right Wing Christian Clerics hold for gays and lesbians trickles down into the doings of folks who normally would do the right thing. Think for a moment. California is a blue state, and Fullerton is a university town. Yet they still look to twist whatever regulation they can find to punish a young woman writing an article about tolerance and understanding?

Someone give this young woman a scholarship, and then tell the Principal of that school to SHUT THE FUCK UP!