California Bans Newspaper Censorship at Charter Schools

By August 23, 2010

Though FIRE’s mission is dedicated to free speech rights and academic freedom in higher education, we pay attention to free speech developments in high schools as well, since courts sometimes (erroneously, in our opinion) apply rulings governing the speech rights of K-12 children to the adults who populate our nation’s college campuses. That’s why a law introduced by California Senator Leland Yee and signed into effect by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is worth noting. As The Orange County Register reported last week:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Tuesday a student free-speech bill that the author says will close a legal loophole that allowed Orange County’s largest charter school to censor its student newspaper last year.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill 438 in January in response to Orange County High School of the Arts’ insistence that administrators broke no laws when they halted printing of the student newspaper in fall 2009 over objections to its content.

SB 438 passed in the Senate unanimously in January and in a bipartisan 51-19 Assembly vote earlier this month.

The article then describes some pretty stunning acts of censorship on the part of the administration of the Orange County High School of the Arts. While that’s not a FIRE issue, what strikes us is the lopsided nature of the vote for the bill in the highly contentious California Senate and Assembly. There aren’t many issues that draw unanimous votes in one house of the legislature and a 73 percent majority in the other. 

FIRE is glad to see that taking a stand against newspaper censorship is one of those issues, proving once again that the constituency for censorship in America’s schools is largely confined to the very people who think that they’ll get to do the censoring. Thanks to Senator Yee and Governor Schwarzenegger for their important work on this issue.