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Glendale Schools OK Censorship of Student Papers

October 22, 1987|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

A policy allowing school officials to censor student publications in Glendale was unanimously approved this week by Glendale Unified School District board members.

The new guidelines, which take effect immediately, state that the school district shall be considered publisher of all student publications, including newspapers, magazines and yearbooks.

Moreover, the policy allows school principals to review and make final decisions regarding controversial articles or advertisements scheduled to run in student publications.

However, students will be offered an opportunity to appeal the decision before district officials.

The Glendale policy imposes greater restrictions than those in the California Education Code, which does not consider the school district to be publisher of student publications and allows censorship by school officials only under limited circumstances.

Nevertheless, school officials consider the guideline constitutional and legal, Supt. Robert Sanchis told board members before the vote Tuesday night.

California law allows school districts to censor student publications containing "obscene, libelous or slanderous" statements or materials that would cause "substantial disruption" of school operations, violate school regulations or incite students to commit illegal acts on school grounds.

At first, the discrepancies between the state and proposed school district policies aroused objections from Glendale High School journalism teacher Judy Lind.

However, Lind said Wednesday that recent revisions in the newly adopted policy had eased her concerns.

At a school board meeting two weeks ago, Lind presented the board with a scathing review by Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, of the originally proposed Glendale policy.

In a three-page letter, Goodman said the policy would have violated the California Education Code and the U. S. Constitution.

After reviewing the letter, board members struck from the proposed policy clauses that would have prevented students from endorsing candidates for office and required all printed matter circulated on school property to include the names and addresses of those responsible for it.

The board also established an appeal process.

Any student who disagrees with a principal's censorship decision can complain to the district deputy superintendent, who must issue a decision within three days of receiving the appeal. If the student is still dissatisfied, he may appeal to the superintendent, who has the final word.

Although board members disregarded Goodman's warnings against naming the district the publisher, Lind said she is nevertheless satisfied with the revised policy.

"Even though the principal may be the interpreter, there is now the due process clause," Lind said of the policy. " . . . I am pleased they were willing to review the policy and make the changes."

District officials decided in May to tighten censorship after Sanchis banned a public-service advertisement promoting condoms as protection against acquired immune deficiency syndrome from Hoover High School's student newspaper.

The highly publicized action drew heavy criticism from some journalism students and teachers, who accused the district of heavy-handed censorship. As a result, school board members directed the district's staff to draw up the new policy.

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