Bear Creek High School Newspaper Censored Over School Safety Article, First Amendment Violation Questioned

Did This High School Just Violate The First Amendment?

Students at Stockton, Calif.'s Bear Creek High School got a lesson in prior restraint along with their journalism training.

The school's principal, Shirley McNichols, confiscated 1,700 copies of The Bruin Voice, a student-run paper, citing concerns about an article questioning campus safety policies.

The article in question explored the school's allegedly outdated 45-page safety document. Staff members were quoted describing the failed communication system during recent lock-down drills and reports of on-campus weapons.

McNichols withheld the paper until she could consult district officials, causing some to question whether the students' First Amendment rights were being violated. The paper was later released after review, and McNichols acknowledged that school safety practices could be improved.

"I just want to make sure we are not creating an unsafe situation by perpetuating a false impression that we don't have a policy in place and that we aren't aware of shortcomings or are not seeking improvements," McNichols told the Record.

Mikala Bussey, who wrote the article, said she did not intend to create the unsafe situation McNichols described.

"It wasn't supposed to be a call to action, or to incite panic or to make students feel unsafe," Bussey told KCRA. "It was more to try to hold the administration accountable."

Editor-in-chief Justine Chang and journalism advisor Kathi Duffel said the administration was acting on other motives, the Record reported.

"I think (administrators) were embarrassed by how they were portrayed in the article," Chang told the Record.

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