The San Francisco Press Club is disturbed by the actions of a teacher and assistant principal at Palo Alto High School who tried to block student journalists covering a Nov. 4 police chase on the Paly campus.
The students, who were in a journalism class at the time, wanted to take photos of a police officer who was injured in the chase. They waited until Principal Adam Paulson announced an all-clear over the intercom.
One would assume there was no safety threat after the all-clear, so it’s frustrating to hear the students were restrained from covering the story.
California Education Code Section 48907 states that student journalists have the right to report the news without interference as long as they aren’t publishing libel or threatening school operations.
The actions of the teacher and assistant principal were clearly in violation of the students’ rights.
We see two educational opportunities in the wake of this incident:
1. Teachers and administrators should be educated about the rights of student journalists so this doesn’t happen again.
2. Student journalists should learn their teachers and principals will support them as they work to cover the news, even in challenging situations. In other words, this incident can be turned into a positive by asking staff to speak out and support the mission of an already excellent student journalism program.
We hope this will never happen again. And given the investment the Palo Alto Unified School District has put into the Paly journalism program, we believe no one there will want this to happen again either.
Officers and directors: