Pearl Post adviser, students to keynote NorCal Media Day, Sept. 24

Fresh from legal victory, trio will share their story – and celebrate the latest news.

Pearl Post adviser, students to keynote NorCal Media Day, Sept. 24

(UPDATE: Livestream of this session will be available on InFocus TV at this link.)

The Journalism Education Association of Northern California is delighted to announce that the keynote presentation for next weekend’s NorCal Media Day will include the adviser and graduated students at the core of a press law challenge — resolved Sept. 16! — at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Southern California.

Taking the stage at the Palo Alto High School-hosted event will be Pearl Post adviser Adriana Chavira, along with writer (and features editor) Nathalie Miranda and magazine editor-in-chief Valeria Luquin, both college freshmen. The scheduled moderator for the presentation is JEANC board member Sarah Nichols, who also is president of the Journalism Education Association.

In news that has been hailed as a victory for California’s pioneering free expression law, Ed. Code 48907, the Student Press Law Center announced yesterday that the Los Angeles Unified School District was officially rescinding its suspension of Chavira, imposed this month following her refusal to censor a November 2021 student-produced story on the Pearl Post website

The story names a school librarian who chose not to receive a Covid-19 vaccination and did not return to work after a mandate requiring vaccines went into effect, effectively closing the library to students.

“I am relieved that the suspension was finally rescinded, and I wish it would not have taken almost a whole year to apply the law correctly,” Chavira told the SPLC following yesterday’s hearing.

The case should never have happened, according to SPLC Executive Director Hadar Harris. 

“California has one of the strongest student free expression laws in the country,” the SPLC website quoted Harris as saying. “Adriana Chavira is a well-known, award-winning journalism adviser. The school is named after the late Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, who was killed while reporting in Pakistan after 9/11. The law is clear and the facts speak for themselves. We are thrilled that LAUSD came to its senses and applied the law correctly, and we are proud of the brave students at the Pearl Post for standing up for their rights and for their adviser.”

California has the oldest student free student expression law in the country: Cal. Educ. Code Section 48907. Under the law, student journalists have the right to determine what content they publish. 

In a section added in 2009 and signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the law also protects media advisers like Chavira from administrative retaliation for their students’ speech.

The sections reads:

An employee shall not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against solely for acting to protect a pupil engaged in the conduct authorized under this section, or refusing to infringe upon conduct that is protected by this section, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution. 

The article on the SPLC website describes the play-by-play that led to yesterday’s decision, noting that it was student outreach to the organization that initiated its involvement, saying: 

After consulting with SPLC attorneys through our legal hotline, the student journalists decided not to take down the librarian’s name from the published article. Administrators then demanded that Chavira remove the name. She stood by her students’ editorial decision –– and upheld Section 48907, which prevents a teacher from censoring student work protected under the statute.

School officials informed Chavira this month that she would be suspended for three days without pay and have a disciplinary notice placed in her personnel file. They were, in essence, punishing her for insubordination because she refused to break the law. Chavira then appealed.

SPLC sent a strong letter on Sept. 8 to LAUSD Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, co-signed by 22 organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting free speech and press rights, including a member of Daniel Pearl’s family. The letter demanded that the district rescind the disciplinary proceedings against Chavira. Following that letter and significant media coverage throughout California and across the country, the district fast-tracked the appeal hearing. 

By inviting Chavira and the former Pearl Post staff members, JEANC endeavors to spread knowledge of Ed. Code 48907 and inspire students to use it to defend themselves against efforts to censor their work.

“Coming the day before Constitution Day, this case demonstrates, again, why the protection of a free press –– and student press freedom –– is so important,” Harris was quoted on the SPLC website. “If this situation has taught us anything, it is that we need to ensure that where there is a law in place, students, teachers and administrators understand it and apply it correctly. And where we don’t have legal protections, it is urgent and essential to protect student press freedom to ensure student journalists can report on issues of importance in their communities without fear of arbitrary censorship.”

The keynote session will be at noon in the Atrium of Palo Alto High School’s Media Arts Center and is offered free of charge — along with the other activities of the day — for all JEANC member advisers and their students.

EVENT DETAILS

  • In addition to the keynote, the NorCal Media Day program includes four sets of 45-minute sessions starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m.
  • Check-in for the event starts at 9 a.m. at the school’s inspirational Media Arts Center. A large group introduction will begin promptly at 9:30 a.m.
  • Conference FAQs: Check here to see if your question has already been answered.
  • COVID-19 health protocols: We will be following local health officials guidance at the time of the event regarding masking and other Covid-19 safety protocols. Please keep an eye out for updates from JEANC as needed. Participants are asked to remain home if exhibiting any Covid-19 symptoms.
  • Speaker biographies for the event can be found here.
  • Admission is free to JEANC members and their students. Students must attend with their adviser or a school-authorized adult.
  • JEANC Membership: Click here to learn more about JEANC membership and to join or renew your membership.
  • Registration: Click here to register!
  • Sign up here for a constructive critique from a veteran adviser to help grow your publication!