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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
HIGH SCHOOL NEWSPAPER: THE MUSICAL
In high schools across the USA you can learn about the nine amendments to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights.
It is the first one that is often forgotten.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1988 decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, ruled that public high schools can control, even censor, the content in student publications if the action is “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”
And those zany principals and superintendents take that ruling to heart. Hell, I can't even imagine my old HS principal Mr. Carl Ison ever thought to bother himself with such things as the Constitution.
Anyway, out in the land of everlasting sunshine some West Covina High School students and alumni are saying, "come on already" to Superintendent Lilliam Leis-Castillo who decided it was time for their student newspaper advisor to go...not long after the paper published an article which included an unhappy remark from Leis-Castillo.
CALIFORNIA -- Some West Covina High School students and alumni are protesting the decision to replace the long-time adviser of their newspaper, Newsbytes.
Students say they fear the decision is an effort to exercise greater control over the newspaper, but Alex Ruvalcaba, starting his first year as principal at West Covina, insists that is not the case.
Ruvalcaba recently named Lisa Maggiore, a geometry teacher at Hollencrest Middle School, as the new adviser to Newsbytes, replacing Ted Moser, who has advised the newspaper for 13 years.
Current and former Newsbytes staff members spoke at the June 22 West Covina Unified School District Board of Education in support of Moser. They also created flyers and a Facebook group and have asked community members to write letters and e-mails to board members.
Newsbytes Editor-in-Chief Victor Valle said he questions the timing of the decision to remove Moser as adviser because it follows some tension between the student newspaper and Superintendent Liliam Leis-Castillo over comments she made about West Covina. Castillo said at a previous board meeting that she had visited some of the high school's classes, "and I'm not sure, if I was a student, I'd want to be in some of those classrooms."
Those comments were reported in the Feb. 19 issue of Newsbytes and were also the subject of an editorial by the students, which Valle said increased friction between the newspaper staff and Castillo.
Ruvalcaba said Castillo was not involved in the decision to remove Moser as adviser.
"The decision to change advisers was no one else's decision but mine," he said. "Other than she appointed me as principal, that's her only involvement."
Ruvalcaba said Maggiore, who advises the middle school yearbook, asked for the opportunity and he felt it was a good time for a change in the position. Maggiore already has some new ideas for the newspaper, Ruvalcaba said.
"I firmly believe that all stakeholders in a learning community should have the opportunity to take their turn at leadership opportunities," he said. "Mr. Moser had it for 13 years, and I think it's only fair that someone else takes their turn."
But Valle said it would be "hard to replicate" the success that Moser has had as adviser.
"There's a stability factor that goes along with a newspaper," he said. "He makes it so that it's easy to work and get things done. By removing things so abruptly, it kind of kills the flow of the entire paper."
Shaina Woodcock, a 2007 graduate and former Newsbytes opinion editor, said she thinks the editorial is linked to Moser losing his job.
"It's suspicious to me that a couple months after this incident, he no longer has his title," she said.
The newspaper was placed under prior review about a year ago following the publication of a controversial editorial. Valle said that he believes the school has been trying to gain more control of the newspaper since then.
"I highly believe that this is another form of censorship," he said.
Ruvalcaba said he understands the students' concern over change but that the newspaper would continue to be student-run.
"I believe that the paper is always going to be the voice of the students and the voice of their perception of what's happening on campus," he said. "It's absolutely going to be as student-led as it has been in the past. Nothing's going to change."
Valle said he is optimistic that their efforts will get Moser reinstated as adviser.
"I have a good feeling that we will," he said. "If we continue what we're doing, if we continue to get people to write letters and support us."
The students and alumni will speak at the next Board of Education meeting on July 14.
Moser and Castillo were not available for comment by press time.