Journalism teacher suspended for … ?

When student reporters asked why a popular teacher and debate coach wasn’t being rehired, San Gabriel High School principal Jim Schofield tried to kill the story, suggesting a fluffy profile instead, reports Reason.

Jennifer Kim, the award-winning journalism teacher and newspaper adviser, backed her students’ right to publish. She’s been placed on administrative leave, “barred from speaking to her students and prohibited from coming on campus without an escort while the district conducts a retroactive investigation into her conduct,” reports the Pasadena Star-News.

"Transparency Man" visits a protest by San Gabriel High students against the firing of a teacher.

“Transparency Man” visits a protest by San Gabriel High students against the firing of a teacher.

The suspension came Aug. 10, a week after Kim discussed California’s free-speech protections for student journalists and advisors with the new principal, Debbie Stone, at yearbook camp.

Matador staffers say a math teacher has taken over Kim’s job. Meanwhile, the newspaper’s online site is down.

The Alhambra Unified school board passed a free-speech policy earlier this month, following “months of demonstrations held by student journalists alleging censorship, bullying and a lack of transparency in the district,” reports the Star-News.

The board’s new policy, “Freedom of Speech/Expression, School-Sponsored Publications,” borrowed some clauses from California Education Code 48907, a state law that governs free speech on high school campuses, while still omitting others.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a nationwide advocacy organization for student journalists and their advisers, filed a complaint with the district on Tuesday about the policy, saying it “falls short of the requirements of California law and should be revised to become fully compliant.”

Among other things, the policy does not recognize the state law’s ban on retaliation against journalism advisers.

A protest web site called Defy Silence Under Alliance is calling for Kim’s reinstatement.

‘I teach to empower kids’

I teach to “empower kids to live satisfying and productive lives,”, writes Esther Wojcicki, a long-time English and journalism teacher at Palo Alto High School, on Learning Matters. “I am helping grow adults.”

(Teenagers) tend to be energetic, creative and humorous, and their drive for independence empowers them to think outside the box. I love to see what far-out ideas they dream up. Some of them have turned out to be real winners. Kids are amazing — if you encourage them.

I try to create a classroom atmosphere in which students are not afraid of making mistakes. In fact, they are encouraged to take intellectual risks and occasionally fail, because that is the way they learn best.

Paly journalism students develop their own story ideas, she writes. Student editors assign the stories and supervise the reporters.  She lets them “do the work themselves.”

I know this is true because Woj was my daughter’s journalism teacher. Working on the newspaper as a writer, news editor and editor was one of the most important experiences of Allison’s life. Woj lets students lead, even when she’s the one who’s going to catch the flak. She really does grow adults.

School bans atheist’s editorial on religion

Administrators, teachers and coaches promote “pro-Christian” beliefs at school events, wrote Krystal Myers, an atheist, in the Lenoir City High School (Tennessee) school newspaper. But school officials pulled the honor student’s editorial, claiming it would be “disruptive,” reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Schools Director Wayne Miller said the school district is not violating the law.

Prayers at athletic events are student-led. School board meetings do begin with a prayer, but there are usually no students present, he said.

One teacher wears T-shirts that depict the crucifix, Myers wrote. Other teachers often use Bible verses for the “Quote of the day” written on classroom boards.  Coaches encourage team prayer before competitions. “As the captain of the swim team, I feel I have to be a part of it.”

Myers also cited Lee vs. Wiseman, a U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a case where a parent tried to stop a rabbi from speaking at a middle school graduation. The court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the inclusion of clergy who offer prayers at official public school ceremonies violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

“The school’s rule creates subtle and indirect coercion (students must stand respectfully and silently), forcing students to act in ways which establish a state religion,” the ruling said.

 If Myers editorial had run in the school newspaper — she’s the editor — would the Christians have rioted? I doubt it.


Transfers succeed and lead at top colleges

Community college students who transfer to selective colleges  succeed academically and become student leaders, reports a new study.

Southwestern College administrators have stopped the presses for the student newspaper, the Sun, citing a contracting policy that hasn’t been enforced for decades. The fuss over the printing contract is retaliation for covering the administration’s mishaps, claim the student journalists.

It’s all on Community College Spotlight.