High school students fight Lodi district over story about student in adult entertainment
A Northern California high school newspaper that battled administrators over an article about a student in the adult entertainment industry published the story on Friday.
The Lodi Unified School District had demanded to review the article before publication in The Bruin Voice at Bear Creek High School in Stockton, citing possible Education Code violations. The ensuing fight over free speech made national headlines.
The district on Wednesday agreed not to intervene after an attorney reviewed the story and said he found nothing of concern.
The story follows an 18-year-old student who makes money working in pornography. According to the article, Caitlin Fink moved out of her parents’ home and made money by selling erotic photos of herself on the social media app Kik, Tinder and Pornhub. She also began stripping in San Francisco. The story highlights her struggles in school, mandatory testing for STDs, and discusses her income from selling photos of herself.
“We can’t remember when students were so excited to see The Bruin Voice,” journalism adviser Kathi Duffel said in an email to The Sacramento Bee. “When students distributed them to the classrooms, they were often rushed by students eager to get their copy! I think many students read the entire paper, cover to cover for the first time.”
The Lodi Unified Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer had sent a letter Duffel on April 11 demanding to see the story by the next day. “Should you fail to provide a copy, you may be subject to discipline up to, and including, dismissal,” the letter said.
Duffel refused, citing freedom of speech and calling the district’s demand a “gross and broad overreach.”
The district had expressed concern that the story would contain obscene information or defamatory comments against Fink’s family, but in a statement Friday said it was satisfied the article passed muster.
“Lodi Unified School District is very pleased that the process we have been engaged in regarding the Bear Creek High School newspaper has resulted in an article that meets legal requirements,” read a statement from the district on Thursday. “We know that these experiences regarding controversies and debates help prepare our students to be successful as they pursue future efforts of higher education and career.”
Education Code Section 48907 upholds free speech for student journalists unless the content is obscene, libelous or encourages students to commit crimes.