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Fallbrook School Leader Ready To Move Past Censorship Case

— The superintendent of the Fallbrook Union High School District says his North County district is ready to move past a two-year-long campus censorship case.

Superintendent Dale Mitchell confirms his district struck a deal with the ACLU to settle a school newspaper censorship case dating back to 2008.

The district will now pay Fallbrook High School's newspaper advisor $7,500 in the settlement. The ACLU gets $20,000.

At the time, Fallbrook High School's principal attempted to block the publication of a student-written article about the resignation of the district's former superintendent. The principal also tried to block a student editorial critical of the district's abstinence-only sex education program.

Mitchell says the campus has adopted new guidelines and procedures so this doesn’t happen again.

“In my opinion, if these (guidelines) had been in place a couple years ago, we would not have ended up in the circumstances that gave rise to the lawsuits,” Mitchell said. “I'm very optimistic that the guidelines will serve all parties well.”

The district will also send letters to the students involved, exonerating them from any wrong doing.

The ACLU's David Blair-Loy says the settlement is a victory for student press rights.

“There is no better place to begin standing up for and teaching basic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press than in our schools,” Blair-Loy said. “It does take enormous courage for students to stand up to school authorities when (officials) are violating freedom of speech.”

The campus newspaper advisor was removed from his position for insisting to run the information. Five of his journalism students alerted the Student Press Law Center in Virginia. That's when the ACLU got involved.

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