The Student Press Law Center and the National Scholastic Press Association will co-present the 2015 Courage in Student Journalism Award to student journalists from San Gabriel High School at the National High School Journalism Convention in Orlando on Nov. 14. The students will also receive a cash prize.
The SPLC, a national non-profit legal assistance agency, selected the journalists of The Matador, SGHS’s student publication, as winners of its 2015 Courage award for their "high-profile fight against school censorship."
The students have been contesting the school and the Alhambra Unified School District since early this year. They alleged Principal Jim Schofield censored an article about the dismissal of first-year English teacher Andrew Nguyen. They also criticized the school district for dismissing Nguyen and placing teacher Jennifer Kim, who was also the advisor to The Matador, on administrative leave. They focused on the district's policy of not publicly stating a reason for these actions, saying that it signaled a lack of transparency.
The school board denied the accusations and stated in a letter that an internal investigation concluded that there were no intentional acts of censorship, the Source reported in June. Some students disagreed with the board's report, which exonerated Schofield.
The SPLC recognizes the students' continued efforts on providing in-depth coverage of the ongoing disputes. “What is going on in the Alhambra Unified School District is a national disgrace, and the public knows about it only because these young journalists are unafraid to tell the truth, even in the face of intimidation tactics,” said attorney Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the SPLC.
The SPLC was founded in 1974 and has headquarters in Washington D.C. The organization's website states that the SPLC is “the nation's only legal assistance agency devoted exclusively to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment and supporting the student news media in their struggle to cover important issues free from censorship.” The Courage award is sponsored by the Kent State University Center for Scholastic Journalism.