Freedom of school press

Thursday, November 1, 2012
Becky Yeh - California correspondent (

An advocate for First Amendment rights says one California school district is "on shaky ground" for banning religious symbols from student newspapers.

A change allowing the superintendent of the Roseville Joint Union High School District the right to ban political campaigning and religious symbols from school newspapers and yearbooks is landing the Sacramento-area district in trouble. Robert Knight of The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) tells OneNewsNow Roseville trustees decided early last month to change the district's advertising policy.

Knight, Robert (ACRU)"Student papers are run by minors, overseen by adults," Knight details. "The kids don't have an absolute free speech right, especially when they're doing it on the taxpayers' dime. The real question is why the district is singling out religious speech and banning religious symbols."

Assistant superintendent Ron Stevenson tells The Sacramento Bee that even though the district can restrict certain ads, it is willing to work with journalism advisers and the Student Press Law Center to come up with a solution.

"The Supreme Court made it clear that you can't single out some viewpoints for discrimination -- you either allow all the viewpoints, unless they conflict with school doctrine, or you don't allow any," the ACRU spokesman notes. "And certainly, singling out religious speech clearly violates that premise. So, the school district is on shaky ground."

Officials initially stood by its changes, but they now plan to revisit the issue and revise the new policy to ensure that it does not "infringe" on the freedom of the press.

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