Fallbrook High Newspaper to Print Censored Materials

Students at Fallbrook High School can finally read an article and an editorial censored by the school’s principal, now that the ACLU and Bostwick & Jassy LLP have filed a motion demanding that the school stop stonewalling their publication.

Only ten days after the motion was filed, and over four months after the school’s lawyer rebuffed a pre-litigation request to allow publication, Fallbrook Union High School District’s Superintendent, Dale Mitchell, finally met with current editors of the Fallbrook High School newspaper, The Tomahawk, about publishing the materials censored by the school’s principal in fall 2007 and May 2008.

The principal, Rod King, illegally blocked publication of an article about the then-superintendent’s conduct during the San Diego wildfires of 2007 and an editorial criticizing the Bush Administration’s abstinence-only policy for sex education.

“It’s a sad statement that it took a lawsuit and a motion for injunction to compel Fallbrook High School to respect the law,” said David Blair-Loy, legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. This is an important, if belated, victory for freedom of speech and freedom of the press for high school students.

The March 2009 issue of The Tomahawk, published this week, contains the article and editorial, together with the District’s asserted justifications for previously blocking their publication, as well as related stories.

“The article and editorial should have been published a long time ago. Instead, the District resorted to censorship and would only be moved by legal action,” said Jean-Paul Jassy, partner at Bostwick & Jassy LLP. “What a waste of everyone’s time and resources. Although we have strong disagreements with the content of the pieces accompanying the Article and Editorial, their publication, after these many, many months show that a dialogue could have and should have begun much sooner without the need for legal action.”

The student plaintiffs never sought to compel the publication of their materials, but only to enjoin the school and district from continuing to prohibit their publication.

The motion was to be heard by Judge M. James Lorenz on March 30, 2009, but he decided not to hear oral arguments.

Bostwick & Jassy was alerted to the case by the attorney referral network of the Student Press Law Center.

For background on this story, /wp-content/uploads/article/Fallbrook Prelim Inj Brief.pdf” target=”_blank”>Fallbrook Prelim Inj Brief.pdf