Board Considers New Student Publication Policy


Kate Meyers

Riley Goodfellow (10), speaks at the CUSD board meeting on September 12 to voice concerns about board policies relating to publications. Her shirt contains a clause from Education Code 48907, California’s law protecting student speech from censorship and prior review by school officials.

Claire Cone, Copy Editor

CUSD Trustees tabled a vote on revisions to its publications policy until it could gather input from student editors and advisers about the proposed changes.

The move came after The Express’ Co Editor-in-Chief, Riley Goodfellow, spoke at the September 12 board meeting, voicing concerns that the proposed publications policy was unclear and left too much room for interpretation on what kind of speech is “appropriate for a school school setting.”

She encouraged board members to use text from the state law, found in California Education Code 48907, as a guide, as other school districts do.

Goodfellow compared her suggestion to one of San Diego Unified School District’s code that is stated clearly and complies with state and federal laws. She said San Diego Unified School District’s Board Policy 5145.2(a)  states: ‘students’ freedom of expression shall be limited only as allowed by Education Code 48907, 48950, and other applicable state and federal laws.’”

The earlier draft of the publication policy was created over the summer without a majority of CUSD advisers present and no student input. Principal, Jennifer Smalley, attended that meeting but made no comment as to why students were not invited.

Both statements are equally ambiguous, something to consider would be clearly defining what that statement means in order to avoid conflicts based on subjective interpretations of the policy.”

— Riley Goodfellow

“We looked at the difference between editorials and opinions [at the meeting],” said Smalley.

A first reading of the policy occurred at a July 25 board meeting where CUSD staff suggested that “aspects of the policy were outdated and needed revision to align with current issues and realities,” according to the agenda from that meeting.

September 12 was the second public reading meant to update CUSD’s current policy, last updated in 1999. Part of the original version read, “While serving to instruct students in the basic skills of responsible journalism, official school publications shall be free to provide thoughtful, relevant commentaries on all topics within the bounds of good taste.”

The term “good taste” is not definitive in meaning and is more restrictive than California state law allows, under Education Code 48907. The the new proposed policy simply changed the wording from “good taste” to “appropriate for a public school setting.”

The new language, “appropriate for a public school setting” was borrowed from an even older publications policy from Arcadia Unified School District adopted in 1993, according to documents found through online searches by The Express.

Goodfellow pushed back on the proposed policy because The Express saw new phrase as equally problematic.

“Both statements are equally ambiguous,” said Goodfellow.  “Something to consider would be clearly defining what that statement means in order to avoid conflicts based on subjective interpretations of the policy.”

After 15 minutes of discussion between the trustees and Goodfellow, the item was pulled from the agenda to make further revisions.

An input session to further revise the policy and gather input from student editor as well as advisers was held on October 17, but a final version of the policy was not available at press time. When it is complete it will go before the board again.