U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student journalists, adviser sue school, alleging intimidation

Incident Details


Two student journalists and the former adviser for a California high school sued the district and administrators on Feb. 22, 2024, alleging that the principal intimidated and retaliated against them over an article on sexual harassment at the school.

February 22, 2024

Student journalists and the former adviser of a high school newspaper in California filed a lawsuit against the school district and administrators on Feb. 22, 2024, alleging intimidation and retaliation in violation of the state’s student press freedom law.

According to the complaint, the Oracle newspaper at Mountain View High School is entirely student-run, with the young journalists choosing, writing and editing their own articles. Former faculty adviser Carla Gomez would review articles before publication and provide guidance on journalistic standards and techniques.

In early 2023, students on the newspaper’s In-Depth team — which produces long-form investigative articles — began reporting on allegations of student-on-student sexual harassment at the school. Administrators learned of the article when students contacted them for comment.

Principal Kip Glazer spoke to the students on March 27, telling them that the planned article would lead to “catastrophic consequences” if published and that the newspaper should only present the school in a “positive light,” according to the suit. She also asserted that she could censor the article, but that she did not want to, and asked to review the piece before publication.

The students told reporters for The Talon, a student newspaper at a nearby high school, that following Glazer’s review they made some changes for journalistic reasons, but made many more because they were afraid of upsetting her.

“We were kind of confused and kind of scared of what her implications were,” Assistant In-Depth Editor Renuka Mungee said of Glazer’s mandate. “Was the entire Oracle going to get in trouble? Were we individually going to get in trouble for publishing it? I think we felt compelled to remove certain details because we were scared of what her reaction would be or what the consequences would be.”

Mungee and In-Depth Editor Myesha Phukan told the Talon that though they had followed journalistic and ethical best practices when reporting the piece, they ultimately self-censored: a decision they said they’ve come to regret

A modified version of the article was published on March 31, but without descriptions of some of the harassment, details of one of the accused harasser’s participation in the choir program or other contextual information, according to the suit. Less than a month later, Glazer announced that the school’s Introduction to Journalism course was being cut and that Gomez was being replaced as the newspaper’s adviser.

Glazer, who did not respond to requests for comment, told the Talon in May that she is a staunch supporter of the First Amendment and student journalism.

“I believe that the purpose of public education is to create an educated populace for the protection of democracy, and I believe that the role of the press is extremely important,” Glazer said. “Democracy doesn’t exist without a robust and free press.”

Attorney Jean-Paul Jassy sent a letter on behalf of Gomez and Hanna Olson, co-editor-in-chief, to the superintendent, board of trustees and Glazer on Sept. 27 detailing the alleged intimidation and retaliation, and requested the release of communications surrounding the incident.

The letter also asked for a written acknowledgement that Glazer’s actions amounted to censorship in violation of California Education Code 48907, a reinstatement of the introductory course with Gomez as the adviser and a written commitment that there would be no further attempts at censorship.

When those requests were not met, Jassy filed the lawsuit making similar requests on behalf of Gomez, Olson and Hayes Duenow, one of the authors of the article.

“The ideas and the principles that underlie the First Amendment are first experienced and first taught to students when they’re in high school or college,” Jassy told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. “So it’s really important that they have the liberty to do investigative journalism, to do research and to report on issues in their communities, just like the professional or mainstream media do.”

Gomez told the Tracker that she hopes the lawsuit will ensure the independence of the Oracle and that students have a voice in the direction the newspaper takes. “If you don’t have the student-run aspect and the independence, it’s very hard to have a strong journalism program. If they’re worried about writing a story that offends somebody in power, that it’s going to affect the program, then it’s going to have a chilling effect,” Gomez said.

In a statement to the Student Press Law Center, Olson said that she joined the lawsuit to ensure the spirit of the Oracle carries on.

“This case matters to me because I want to ensure the long term stability and prosperity of my school’s journalism program,” Olson said, “and I want student journalists at my school to be empowered to stand by their rights to publish stories that need to be told.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].