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Squabble over school newspaper ad content

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POSTED October 29, 2012 9:06 p.m.

ROSEVILLE . (AP) — A First Amendment squabble is brewing in California over high school newspaper and yearbook advertising content.

Roseville Joint Union High School District's decision this month to give the superintendent the right to approve ads before they can run in the district's five student newspapers has raised legal issues that could have implications districts statewide.

The Roseville school board voted on Oct. 9 to bar all political campaigning and religious symbols from advertisements that appear in student publications and the superintendent authority to reject ads for any reason.

The revised policy was based on a model crafted by the California School Boards Association, and other school districts have adopted similar restrictions on religious ads or given education officials final say over paid ads, according to The Bee.

Those provisions could lead to students filing lawsuits over free speech rights and advertisers going to court complaining their right to religious speech has been quashed, Attorney Adam Goldstein of the Student Press Law Center in Virginia said.

"The district is opening themselves up to a lot more liability than they are protecting themselves from," Goldstein told The Bee.

But Elaine Yama-Garcia, an attorney for the school boards association, said the sample policy is sound because different First Amendment standards apply to advertising compared to editorial content.

"I think he is misinterpreting the law," she said of Goldstein's complaints.

Karl Grubaugh, a journalist who advises Granite Bay High School's student newspaper, agrees the school district's policy goes too far in infringing on students' rights to control the content in school publications.

"If a tattoo parlor wants to come and put an ad in my paper — you could get a tattoo with parent signature at 16 — we will run that ad." Grubaugh said. "If a church wants to advertise Sunday services, we are going to run that ad."

The blowback has persuaded the Roseville school district to take another look at the policy, with an eye toward presenting changes to the school board on Nov. 13, Assistant Superintendent Ron Severson told The Bee.


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