The Crosby Chronicles: How should journalism students cover school's ACLU suit?

With the story in the news of the ACLU filing a discrimination lawsuit against the city, police and school district on behalf of some students, it brings to mind the delicate nature of being a high school journalism teacher.  How do you teach young people solid journalism yet at the same time do stories about the school which may not be positive?

High school journalists do not have the same range of freedom of the press as do professional journalists.  Since schools help fund the printing of the newspaper, such a fact does impact certain decisions that journalism teachers make.

I’m in my 19th year as adviser to the school newspaper and, yes, I’ve had my share of heated discussions with six principals over the years.  However, I’ve been fortunate to have administrators who, even when they thought I was wrong, ultimately supported the students’ right to print stories as long as they were accurate, and have not demanded to review the paper before it goes to press.

I’ve also had lively discussions with students who sometimes don’t understand the fact that their teacher is also a colleague of other teachers, administrators and school officials.  Students stay at a high school for four years; I’ve been at my job nearly six times as many years so I have more vested in the school.  A journalism teacher has to take into consideration how a story is going to impact the people he works with. And that, too, is another teachable moment.

-- Brian Crosby, for Times Community News

Brian Crosby is a teacher in Glendale and the author of Smart Kids, Bad Schools and The $100,000 Teacher.  He can be reached at

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