Thursday, October 02, 2008

California enacts nation's broadest law protecting journalism teachers who fight official censorship

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a new law blocking retaliation against journalism teachers who protect student journalists from censorship. The law "provides that no public school or college employee may be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against solely for acting to protect a student who is engaged in legally protected conduct," reports the Student Press Law Center. "This includes the publication of speech that is not obscene, libelous, slanderous or substantially disruptive to the safe operations of the school." Senate Bill 1370 also provides students with the right to sue schools for censorship after graduation.

Only Colorado and Kansas have similar laws protecting teachers; the California law is broader because it includes all modes of student speech. In other states, the need for such laws has increased; a number of experienced journalism teachers have been fired for refusal to censor stories that school officials deemed embarrassing. (Read more)

Schwarzenegger, in a budget battle with the legislature, says he is signing only important bills. He vetoed another law sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. "The bill would have expressly allowed parties and interested people who disagree with a trial court’s ruling to seal or unseal records to elect to pursue review by writ or appeal for civil actions, but allow only writ review in criminal cases," reports the CNPA Legislative Bulletin. (Read more)

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