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students win speech fight with school district

students win speech fight with school district

After a year-and-a-half legal battle, students in Kern County, Calif., will be able to freely "exercise freedom of speech and of the press" thanks to a court order.

Students at East High School filed a complaint when a series of articles about gay student life that students wished to publish in the second-to-last edition of The Kernal in 2005 were censored by their principal.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the students at the award-winning newspaper were careful to make sure they had full consent of the students they interviewed as well as that of their parents. However, administrators blocked publication, claiming threats might be made against the LGBT students who were interviewed.

Janet Rangel, who graduated from the high school in 2005, was interviewed for the series. "When our principal said the articles on sexual orientation could not be published in The Kernal," she told the ACLU, "it made me feel like I was back in the closet again, hiding." Rangel added, "I'm glad that because we didn't back down, the articles will be printed. It's important for schools to be a place where students learn and feel comfortable."

When the ACLU's national Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project teamed up with the ACLU's Southern California chapter and law firm Millbank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy to file the suit, the school agreed to publish the articles the following fall semester.

Kern County superior court Judge Sidney P. Chapin was expected to file a court order Thursday mandating freedom of speech and press for students and stating that school officials may turn to censorship only as a last resort. (The Advocate)

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