Claremont Insider: State Senate School Journalism Bill

Monday, March 31, 2008

State Senate School Journalism Bill

Censorship in Claremont, always a popular subject among the Claremont 400, is in the spotlight once again. The California State Senate is considering a bill to protect public school and public university journalism teachers from reprisals by school administrators who want to quell so-called "negative" stories - that is, stories that cast their institutions in unfavorable light.

The bill, SB 1370, was introduced by State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and is sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA).

Will Bigham has an article in the Daily Bulletin on the subject. Bigham's article notes that in their support of SB 1370, the CNPA has cited an incident at Claremont High School, where former principal Carrie Allen removed a respected teacher from her position as faculty advisor to the school paper, The Wolfpack. Bigham explained:

The reassignment of Becca Feeney, former adviser to Claremont High School's Wolfpacket, is one of the instances cited by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, a sponsor of the bill.

Feeney, an English teacher, was stripped of her Wolfpacket duties in July 2007 following a clash with Carrie Allen, then the principal of Claremont High.

In May 2007, the newspaper published a series of articles critical of long-term substitute instructors teaching advanced-placement classes.

Shortly after the stories were published, Allen lashed out at Feeney and the newspaper in a letter placed in Feeney's personnel file, according to a written description of the events that Feeney submitted to the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

As we noted back in August, 2007, the Wolfpack, under Feeney, won an award from the Los Angeles Times for a series of articles they published in 2005 about the Claremont Unified School District secretly allowing author Jeremy Iverson to enroll at CHS posing as a student in order to write a book about life as a high schooler.

Both the Iverson incident and the use of substitute teachers for AP classes are things that parents and kids would be concerned about, and the only way they discovered these things was from the Wolfpack. Yet, the CUSD administration would have students and parents denied that important information.

None of this oddball behavior regarding censorship is new to Claremont. Just consider the recent Jonathan Petropoulos-Nazi-looted art story that Claremont McKenna College may or may not have tried to squelch (depending on whom you talk to) before it the story was published in the Claremont Independent.

Claremont, you see, is populated by a good number of faux civil libertarians, a good number of whom are on the CUSD board or on the City Council, yet who have remained silent on this and many other similar issues. That silence you hear is the uproar over at the local Democratic Club over the goings on at their local high school. And, as we wrote in a follow-up to our August post about the removal of Becca Feeney from the Wolfpack:


In more absurd CUSD action,
Will Bigham in today's Bulletin writes that the school board apparently violated the Brown Act during Monday night's meeting.

Of course, this comes as no surprise to long-time school board observers. The Claremont 400 has had little respect for the Brown Act and has fairly consistently sought to conduct its business behind closed doors. In its heyday controlling the city council,
the 400's actions earned Claremont a Black Hole Award in October 2000 from the California First Amendment Coalition.

That philosophy no doubt informed the decision to remove the faculty advisor from Claremont High School's student paper, the Wolfpack, as we noted yesterday. One good thing about these small-town
Savonarolas' actions - through their attempts at hiding their business from the public eye and at controlling what news gets out, they're helping shape the resolve of a few future journalists and artists who are now students under this absurdist regime.

So, Claremont's gift to the world isn't its consistently bad record on First Amendment issues; it's the Journalism Teacher Protection Act, which is what SB 1370 would be called should it become law. Like Claremont's Cookie Grinch, Mayor Ellen Taylor, this is simply more evidence illuminating the real characters of the group running the town. It's comforting to know that some good comes out of these continuing bad acts.