The editor-in-chief of Westminster High School's student newspaper Friday filed a lawsuit seeking a Superior Court order allowing him to print an editorial on AIDS that was rejected by the school principal and district superintendent.
Michael Shindler, 17, a senior, also is asking the court to find unconstitutional a section of the state education code that allows schools to prohibit publication of "obscene, libelous or slanderous" material. The lawsuit contends that the code section violates free speech and freedom of the press.
Shindler's editorial, written for the school paper, the Scroll, decried public misconceptions about acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It criticized the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton) for allegedly spreading misinformation about the disease and homosexuals, and it blamed the news media for "promoting hysteria in the American public over AIDS, in an attempt to keep them tuning in for more . . . just like a horror story," according to a copy of the article included in the lawsuit.
On Oct. 29, Shindler submitted the editorial to his journalism adviser, who disapproved of it and referred the matter to Principal Robert Boehme, the lawsuit states. Boehme told Shindler that the article was too political and might be libelous, according to the lawsuit.
Shindler appealed Boehme's decision to the Huntington Beach Union High School District superintendent, Marie Otto, who suggested that "it may be possible to refine the editorial" to rid it of objections, according to a copy of Otto's answer. However, Otto allowed Shindler to publish a related poll of students who were asked if AIDS victims should be allowed to attend school.
The lawsuit contends that by denying Shindler permission to print and distribute the editorial, school officials have violated his constitutional "right to speak freely and the right to freedom of the press."
Named as defendants in the suit are Boehme, Otto and the school district's board of trustees. Boehme, Otto and the president of the school board could not be reached for comment Friday night.
Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed the lawsuit on behalf of Shindler, Jacqualine Shindler, described in the lawsuit as his guardian, and William Demyers, a taxpayer.