Superintendent Says Article Exploited Juveniles

The March 25 article in the South Bay sports section entitled "Arrests Led to Suspension of Prep Basketball Players" is an unfortunate example of blatant and unapologetic insensitivity on the part of The Times and other agents of the media. The young men featured, including names and pictures, are minors who have due process rights and are not public information spectacles to be exploited by uncaring reporters, editors and publishers who see them only as news items. These are children whose lives are not the property of sports writers merely because they are athletes. We have been besieged by calls from frenetic reporters from various newspapers seeking unavailable information. Would these students be newsworthy if they were not athletes? The definition of "doing your job" by media representatives takes on an unhealthy interpretation in the continued willingness to report information without concern for the consequences to the subjects of the articles and their families.

It is my understanding that unless minors are charged with crimes that result in them being tried as adults, their names and pictures are not to be released to the media or published. The two students named are 17 years old. Realizing that your defense and that of your supporters will probably claim freedom of speech and also that the school district is being defensive, overly protective and uncooperative, I must protest the misuse of your freedom to abuse while informing. The school district is obligated to enforce all rules while guaranteeing the due process and privacy rights of all students. Moreover, the reporter's solicitation of comments from other students indicates a further willingness to exploit the most vulnerable and least sophisticated.

My role as superintendent carries great responsibility; and sometimes I am compelled to make decisions and take actions that are unpleasant, due to the requirements of law and ethics. However, at no time in my career, despite performing many unpleasant tasks, have I ever felt ashamed of my job. In this case, the "job well done" by the sports reporter and The Times is, in my opinion, shameful, disrespectful, unethical and lacking integrity.

Aside from this specific incident, please know that our children and this community are not your tickets to notoriety and profit. We are human beings with families and futures. The media is wrong when it destroys futures, dehumanizes our existence, and seeks to justify its actions. Your role in this regard is contemptuous; and it is my expectation that you will find our future cooperation with your agency to be less than enthusiastic.

GEORGE J. McKENNA III

Superintendent, Inglewood Unified

School District

Editor's note: The Times violated no laws by publishing the names of the juveniles and stands behind the story by Rob Fernas.

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