Letters to the Editor: Praise for LAUSD teacher who stood with student journalists against censorship
To the editor: I thought the censoring of high school journalism was restricted primarily to red states, most notably the campus in Nebraska that recently shut down its newspaper after it reported that LGBTQ+ students exist.
That is why I was shocked to the core about the Los Angeles Unified School District’s decision to suspend Adriana Chavira, a teacher at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School and advisor to the Pearl Post student newspaper.
I served as the associate editor of that school’s newspaper in my senior year in the 1980s when it was known as Birmingham High School, and it was a springboard for a 30-plus year career in journalism. Chavira simply stood behind the decision of the student journalists she advised to report on the fact that Daniel Pearl’s librarian had not been vaccinated against COVID-19. That the school’s library had been closed for a time as a result made it a news story.
This librarian claimed that the reporting of her refusal to be vaccinated, which violated the LAUSD mandate for employees, was a violation of the federal privacy law known by its acronym HIPAA. My reporting specialty is healthcare, and I am amazed how often HIPAA is incorrectly cited.
Furthermore, school libraries have been placed under relentless pressure from book banning activists in recent years. These activists are also often the same types hostile to fact-based journalism.
Chavira should not only be reinstated, but commended for her fortitude.
Ron Shinkman, Northridge
To the editor: As a former journalist, Chavira surely must know about the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier. In 1988, it held that school newspapers can be censored by school officials for educational reasons.
Whether accuracy and timeliness in reporting are enough to overrule the medical privacy rights under HIPAA remain to be seen.
Walt Gardner, Los Angeles
The writer taught for 28 years in LAUSD.
To the editor: Chavira should be applauded for standing up for her students’ right to publish another teacher’s name. That one act and the three-day suspension have hopefully taught her students about the right to free speech and what it might cost them to stick with the truth.
At a time when we are faced with massive teacher shortages, we should be honoring teachers like Chavira. I have no doubt that were he alive, Daniel Pearl himself would stand with her.
Marley Sims, Valley Village