High school threatened with lawsuit over allegations it censored student journalists

Mountain View High School's Oracle newspaper.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The editor-in-chief and former faculty adviser of Mountain View High School’s student newspaper have filed a legal claim against Principal Kip Glazer, alleging that she violated their free speech rights by censoring an article about sexual harassment.

After the article was published, Glazer reassigned the adviser and canceled an Introduction to Journalism class.

Editor-in-chief Hanna Olson said in the claim that her job has been made “significantly more challenging” by Glazer’s actions.

New students joining The Oracle are no longer taught about the ethics of journalism, its technical aspects and its purpose, she said.

“Beyond losing out on valuable education, students in Olson’s class have expressed their distrust in the administration’s regard for the voices of their students,” attorney Jean-Paul Jassy of Los Angeles wrote in a Sept. 27 claim for Olson. Former adviser Carla Gomez is also a party in the claim. She was replaced with the high school’s drama teacher before this school year started.

Glazer told students that Gomez didn’t have the right teaching credential to be their adviser, but Jassy alleges that the rationale was “entirely pretextual and false.”


Gomez and Olson said they won’t file a lawsuit if the district meets these demands, including:

• Issue an apology signed by Glazer, Superintendent Nellie Meyer and Board President Phil Faillace acknowledging that Glazer censored the article, violating the constitutional rights of students.

• Reinstate the Intro to Journalism class this school year and make Gomez the adviser, with the same $7,000 bonus that she received before.

• Promise no school official will attempt to censor a future article by The Oracle.

Jassy gave the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District 10 days to respond.

“If all of the demands are not met by that time, my clients and potentially other MVHS students and their parents will very likely sue,” he said.

Not seeking money

Gomez and Olson aren’t asking for any money at this point but could if there’s a lawsuit, said Jassy. He said he is working pro bono but would seek attorney fees too.

Glazer wouldn’t do an interview with the Post in the spring, and she didn’t respond to requests yesterday afternoon to talk about the claim.

The Oracle’s in-depth team published an article in their April print edition about several students who were subject to overly sexual comments and unsolicited nude photos from their peers.

Victims of sexual harassment told The Oracle that they felt like nobody cared about what happened to them.

Students urged to add a positive spin

Throughout the reporting process, Glazer stopped by the class and told Gomez that the article shouldn’t name any students.

“Glazer said words to the effect that students should write about MVHS in a ‘positive light.’” the claim says. “The implication the students drew was that The Oracle should avoid upsetting people.”

Students made some changes for journalistic reasons, but many more changes were made because they were “afraid of upsetting their principal,” the claim says.


  1. Freedom of speech includes not just the right to say what you want, but also the right to not be forced to express that which you oppose. The school owns the newspaper.

      • Section 48907 doesn’t give students the same freedom as enjoyed by independent publications, and they are subject to administration oversight. For example, the school may prohibit the publication of defamatory stories. Here, the students were told they couldn’t name any students. There is also a broad catch all ability to limit any story which might incite disruption to the school.

        • independent publications don’t “enjoy” a right to publish defamatory stories. That administrative oversight ability is listed in 48907, anything outside of those exceptions are allowed for the students.

          [Portion removed — violation of Terms of Use]

          the bigger point was that the principal was out of her depth by wanting publications that only made the school look good.

          • Regular publications are not subject to “prior restraint” as to defamation. They are only subject to penalties once they publish, while student publications can be blocked before publication. And if the student paper was going to give names, I can understand why the administration would want to limit that. A school does not want to be sued for defamation. The law gives the adminstration the power to block potentially defamatory content because student’s judgment may not be as well developed as it might be, and the school should not have to pay for whatever crazy stuff they come up with.

            • The students had worked with the student press law center. Truth is a defense against defamation. The principal’s stated objections were not because of defamation in any case.

            • Squidsie, since you’re holding yourself out to be an expert, tell me how often are school newspapers sued for defamation? You say that letting a student editor decide what is published is a big problem. But that’s the way it works at other schools. So tell me how often student newspapers sued for defamation? If you are to believed, it must be a huge problem. So what’s the number? It’s a knowable number. If you can’t tell me the number, then let’s look at one school where a student has the final say about what is printed. How often has the Paly Campanile been sued? Don’t change the subject. Answer the question.

              • When did I say such suits are a “big problem”, or that I consider myself an ” expert”? Now you’re just making stuff up. Student papers are subject to adminstration oversight, which keeps them from being sued. The law you smugly cited allows that, and while there is no registry of defamation suits against school papers as you seem to believe, it seems to work. Are you truly claiming that the Paly paper is unsupervised? Don’t change the subject. Answer the question.

                • Once again, Squidsie refuses to answer the question.

                  The answer is: There’s about one defamation case filed a year in all of the high schools and colleges across the United States. That’s according to a commentary by a top First Amendment attorney published in The Fire. The article on April 14, 2022 is titled “Litigiation against student newspapers remains uncommon, but recent suits counsel vigilance.” (I’d post a link if I could, but the Daily Post won’t allow links.)

                  Do the math on that: The U.S. has approximately 20,000 high schools and 4,000 colleges and universities for a total of 24,000 schools.

                  The ratio of lawsuits versus schools is 1:24,000.

                  That’s your big problem, Squidsie?

                  The author, attorney Lindsie Rank, writes, “Lawsuits against student journalists and college publications are *very* uncommon. They happen about once a year, on average, and are quickly dismissed. In many of these cases, state anti-SLAPP statutes kick in and the plaintiff faces the potential responsibility of paying attorneys’ fees for the journalist and the publication that were sued.”

                  Squidsie, you seem to think that allowing students to edit student publication leads to libel suits, but it just ain’t so. You made that up.

                  What’s more dangerous, however, is your assertion that the administration of a school should censor a student publication. That has lead to lawsuits in many places, and it looks like one of those suits will be filed here in Mountain View.

                  • Once again, you have things backwards when you claim that supervision of student publications is not necessary because there are few lawsuits. In reality, there are few lawsuits because almost all student publications are supervised, which prevents youthful excesss and bullying from being published and causing lawsuits. You have cause and effect backwards. Your argument is like saying we don’t have to vaccinate for polio, because we have so few cases domestically. In reality, we have few cases BECAUSE we vaccinate. Try and keep things straight.

                    And, of course, not every wrong always leads to litigation. Students could use a school paper to bully and harrass other students, and it is still unlikely that anyone would incure the cost of suing. That doesn’t mean that the administration should abdicate their duty to protect their students from such conduct. Kids often have lousy judgment, and require supervision.

                    • Nice to see that Squidsie is finally admitting he was wrong. The truth is, allowing students to have the final say about what is published hasn’t led to a torrent of lawsuits. Student editors are very responsible about what they print, and the record reflects that. Squidsie, on the other hand, has learned the hard lesson that it’s best not to make up facts.

  2. The endorsement of an advocacy organization is hardly reliable assurance of the legal soundness of their legal position. Truth may be a defense to defamation, but often the “truth” is unclear and disputed, and it is understandable that the school may not want to rely upon a 17 year old’s “truth”. In any event, the school might reasonably wish to avoid finding themselves in a law suit in the first place, and the law allows them that right.

    • How is a high school principal more qualified to determine if the story was libelous than the attorney the students and advisor sought out? Don’t change the subject, Squidsie, answer the question.

      • The principle doesn’t need to make a determination as to whether or not it is defamatory, only whether it might lead to a claim that it is and possible litigation. Any article identifying individuals in a negative light could easily lead to litigation. Most people consider it prudent to avoid getting sued, especially when your defense would rely upon “facts” generated by teenagers, a group whose judgment is not always reliable.

        • People sue over anything. If the coffee is too hot at McDonald’s they sue. You didn’t really answer the question, you just defaulted to the position that the principal should be the student paper’s editor.

          • No, the principal should be the paper’s reasonable adult. There is a good reason that people are not legally considered adults until age 18. Too hot or not, the coffee at McDonalds is not very good, and good judgement prevents most people from voluntarily exposing themselves to lawsuits.

        • To understand Squidsie’s point better, here’s an analogy. The high school football team needs a quarterback. The kid who is QB now throws too many interceptions. The principal was a high school QB back in the day, so she puts on a helmet and pads, and plays QB to stop all interceptions.

          Why let a student editor get experience handling controversial stories when the principal is ready to step in.

          For what it’s worth, the student had the good judgment to consult with an attorney before publication. The principal did not.

  3. Most taxpayers would prefer to not be forced to pay the attorney fees necessary to defend students’ learning curve. And, the advice of a private attorney for the students would not protect the school, as the students are the client, and the attorney would have no duty of care to the school. Plus, attorneys say all sorts of crazy things. Plus, besides exposure to litigation, the school might reasonably be concerned that the paper could be used to bully students disliked by the writer. In any “he said/she said” incident, the facts and what they mean may be murky, and presented in such a way as to unfairly depict a student.

  4. Combining this with her cutting the school musical and trying to defund the performing arts programs? She deserves to be fired, straight up.

  5. I hope the student and the former adviser win their lawsuit against the school district. The district clearly broke the law. The school board has been given a chance to resolve this case, and refused.

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