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How would you vote?

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Along with an article reporting on censorship of a student newspaper at the Orange County School of the Arts, the Orange County Register ran a poll today: Should school administrators have the right to see an advanced copy of a student newspaper?

The Register gave these options:

• Yes, to correct factual errors and discuss concerns about content
• Yes, but only to make sure the paper’s content doesn’t create an imminent danger to students or disrupt campus operations
• No, it’s prior restraint and should never be allowed
• I’m not sure

By midnight Sunday and nearly 1,000 votes after they had posted the poll, the “yes” percentage in favor of having administrators see the paper was 64 percent (273 for the first question and 344 for the second). The no votes were 339 or 35 percent. Ten responders reported not being sure.

And what had brought about the principal withholding the paper (even though administrators said they would release it next week)?

According to the Register, the editor of the student newspaper said her principal was trying to censor controversial but factual information about a new cafeteria services provider. The principal denied stopping the paper was censorship. She said some of the information was inaccurate.

What details sparked the controversy?

In the first story the situation, the Register reported, “The principal said she delayed printing of the 1,500 copies of ‘Evolution’ because of two stories – a front-page story that says the faculty is ‘looking forward to the upcoming school year with an attitude filled with boldness and spiciness’ and a Page 3 story about the school’s new food services vendor.”

The students reported the “vendor identifies itself as a ‘Christian-based company’ whose ‘purpose’ is to serve God.”

California Education Code Section 48907 does not preclude prior review but states student material can only be limited if  it is “obscene, libelous or slanderous” or incites students to “create a clear and present danger” on the campus or “substantial disruption” to school operations.

The Register reports the principal intends to print the paper next week.

“‘I need to hear her rationale,’ the Register quoted the principal as saying, explaining that she felt the religious component was “irrelevant” to the story. “If she has a good reason for putting it in the story, and we still disagree, she gets to publish it as she wrote it.”

The Register quoted several journalism experts who said the principal had gone beyond the limits of state law.

Articles about the incident, in chronological order, can be found, here, here and here. You can also download a PDF of the student paper’s coverage.

Given this scenario, how would you vote?

And… why?

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