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School Editor Fired Over Gay Profiles

The principal at Troy High in Fullerton says she failed to follow journalistic standards.

February 05, 2005|Tonya Alanez | Times Staff Writer

A Fullerton high school newspaper editor who wrote about openly gay classmates was removed from her position Friday by school officials who said she failed to verify facts and paraphrased quotes in her story.

Ann Long, 18, was told last month that unless she resigned, she would be removed from her job as co-editor of the Oracle, a publication at Troy High School. At the time, school officials said she violated a state education code by not obtaining the permission of the parents of three students whom Long profiled about their sexual orientation in a Dec. 17 article.

But Friday, Principal Chuck Maruca said Long's ouster was due to her failure to follow "accepted and professional journalistic standards."

Maruca gave Long and her parents a two-page letter outlining the school's concerns. The letter said Long failed to verify "quotes and facts about people quoted or written about," although it didn't specify what those were. It also said Long was "untruthful" with her journalism instructor, who had told her three times to obtain "permission from all parties, including parents."

"Now it's basically become I didn't check with the parents [about] if they wanted to be mentioned in their kids' quotes," Long said. "The kids paraphrased their parents, and basically they said I didn't verify that from the parents.

"It's just really surprising to me that it's all blown up this big."

Long said she would not appeal the decision.

Maruca declined to elaborate, citing confidentiality.

"We will not discuss the specifics of any district student or staff member," he said, reading from a prepared statement.

"Troy High School and the Fullerton Joint Union High School District have and continue to support students' rights regarding free speech and expression."

First Amendment experts said the case is an example of the tension that can arise between student journalists and school administrators.

Long will remain in the school's journalism class and the matter will not affect her first-semester grade, Maruca's letter said.

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