Roseville high school trustees revise student publication policy

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 - 12:10 am

The board of the Roseville Joint Union High School District voted Tuesday to revise a controversial policy that sparked a First Amendment debate after its approval last month.

The policy, which gave the superintendent the right to review advertising in student publications, drew local media attention as well as scrutiny from the Student Press Law Center in Virginia.

Adam Goldstein, an attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, raised concerns that the district was opening itself up to lawsuits by limiting student speech and religious expression.

The revised policy approved Tuesday still limits commercial advertising on district property, but eliminates restrictions on school newspapers and yearbooks.

"I think it's a delightfully appropriate decision on the part of the board and on the part of administrators," said Karl Grubaugh, adviser of the award-winning Granite Bay (High) Gazette, one of five newspapers in the district.

On Wednesday Assistant Superintendent Ron Severson said the policy approved Tuesday is the product of collaboration with multiple sources, including journalism instructors and the Student Press Law Center.

Severson said that going forward district officials would be "more vigilant" and would "get more broad-based input before we put something in policy form."

Trustees were trying to update a 34-year-old policy when they approved the questionable change in October, said district officials. Board member Scott Huber said the issue came up after an advertisement was put up in a school football stadium that showed Al Capone smoking. Board members had problems with the depiction of smoking, he said.

The policy they ultimately approved last month was written "nearly verbatim" from a sample policy from the California School Boards Association.

Goldstein said the problem with the policy is that it doesn't provide the same protections for advertising in student publications as it does for editorial copy.

"They were innocent people handed a bad policy," Goldstein said of district officials. "I don't think anyone in the Roseville district, including the board, intended to do any harm to student speech."

Goldstein is concerned about the large number of school districts still using CSBA's model policy. He hopes the decision by the Roseville school board to change its position will lead other district leaders to review their policies.

Elaine Yama-Garcia, an attorney for the CSBA, told The Bee last month that she disagrees with Goldstein's assertion that advertising should be treated the same as editorial content. She said she believed he is "misinterpreting the law."

But Goldstein isn't through with this issue. He intends to talk to CSBA officials about revising the policy. "If they aren't receptive," he said, "perhaps the legislature will be more receptive."

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