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No suspension for teacher who refused to censor student news

Posted at 3:51 PM, Sep 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-18 18:51:53-04

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles school officials have rescinded their suspension of a high school journalism advisor who had refused to censor a student's news article naming an unvaccinated campus librarian.

The teacher, Adriana Chavira, was facing a suspension of three days without pay over the report about employees who declined to follow LA Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

“In LAUSD, about 240 teachers opted out of getting the vaccine, which led to them not showing up to school on Oct. 18,” reported The Pearl Post, the student-run news website at Daniel Pearl Magnet High. The article named an unvaccinated librarian.

For several months after the article was published in November, the librarian and the school’s principal had demanded that the name be removed.

But Chavira, a former journalist who has taught at Pearl Magnet High for 14 years, stood behind her students’ reporting and refused to change the story, citing a California law that protects student journalists from censorship.

She appealed the suspension and won, with a district official rescinding the discipline Friday at an after-school meeting, Chavira told the Times. The district official considered the matter for a few minutes before rescinding the suspension without comment, Chavira said.

“It was definitely a sigh of relief, a huge load off my back,” Chavira said. She added that the ordeal was stressful for her students as well, "knowing something that they wrote could potentially get me fired.”

Chavira and her students received support from the Student Press Law Center, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.

They were also supported by Judea Pearl, whose journalist son — the school’s namesake — was kidnapped and killed by al-Qaeda extremists while reporting for the Wall Street Journal in Pakistan in 2002.

“I don’t want (Chavira) to face any disciplinary action for allowing her students to tell the truth,” Judea Pearl said in a statement issued by the Los Angeles Press Club. “I only want what’s best for the students and the school, which is why I hope they will reconsider this decision.”

Chavira said she was glad that the situation has shed light on California’s protections for journalism advisors and student reporters.

“They do have the 1st Amendment on campus, and they should not bow down to administrators to take down their stories if the stories are reported well,” she told the Times.