Red Tide, Vol. 2, No. 2 [Issue #6]
Suppression Ruled Fair
[By Michael Letwin]
As a lot of you probably know by now, the Red Tide was denied a preliminary injunction to stop the Board of Education from enforcing their rules prohibiting sale, and requiring prior censorship, of all material to be distributed.
On October 20, our hearing began in the Superior Court, Dept. 59, Judge Charles H. Y Church presiding, at 9:00 am. We walked into a small (not like Judd for the Defense) courtroom with about 75 seats and sat down.
This was the stage in the trial where we had a chance to really present our argument, a task that was performed beautifully by Leon Letwin, our attorney. Leon spoke for about an hour, and when he was finished, there was no doubt in our mind that he had expressed our argument in the best possible way.
After we gave our argument, the defense (School Board) attorney had his chance. He first denied that the Board Rule required prior censorship, but after a few minutes of arguing with the judge, he finally conceded that the Board does, in fact require prior censorship, but that he “didn’t like” that phrase.
The defense spoke for about 10 minutes, mentioned some of the documents that they had filed in court the day before, and stressed that there was not enough knowledge of the facts for the judge to make his decision. This of course was just a stalling action, as there are no facts in this case that are disputed, only those of the law and the Constitution. The defense maintained this because they knew that they do not have a strong case. They know that students are legally and constitutionally entitled to freely express themselves on campus, without prior censorship, and to be able to reimburse themselves.
Well, finally when the defense was finished, the judge promptly said that he did not see the need for us to get an injunction, as he thought that the school rules were fair. We all expected this type of result from him, but we were still sort of astounded that the judge could so easily ignore our arguments. We found out that since the judge already made up his mind beforehand, nothing we could say would change his mind, no matter how fine of an argument we had. So we were denied the injunction.
Oh, another interesting thing to note is that the Citizens Legal Defense Alliance, that right wing counterpart to the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit against the Board of Education for allowing the distribution of the Red Tide on campuses, even with the limited rights that we have.
MCCARTHY ERA RETURNS
Another interesting thing to look at is one of the documents that the School Board submitted to the court. One of them labeled “interrogatories” (after interrogation), requested the court to command us to answer questions such as where our finances some from, who thought of the name “The Red Tide,” the name and address of everyone who works on the production of the paper, and it also listed all the articles in the last issue and asked who wrote each one, and whether or not they were written by adults.
These questions have no bearing on our lawsuit, they are intended entirely to again bring up speculation that the Red Tide is too “professional” to be written, laid out and financed by hi school dummies. That the Red Tide is most likely put out by Moscow, or the Weatherpeople. In effect they imply, “come on now, you don’t expect us to believe that hi school people are smart enough to write their own newspaper, and devise ways to finance it? After all, look at the lousy education we give them in school.” Again we say we are glad that we didn’t rely on hi school for our education.
But aside from the implications that are spread throughout the document, there is something more important involved than the specific questions. Questions like these were used throughout a time in American history known as the McCarthy “period,” in which thousands of Americans were investigated by a Senator Joe McCarthy and the House on Un-American Activities Committee and others in the late 1940s and 1950s.
This committee asked questions like this of people who they were trying to prove to be communists (we don’t deny it). Nixon, when he was a Congressman in the late ’40s, helped in this great crusade. People were jailed for not answering questions like this, many lost their jobs and were unable to find new ones, and people such as the Rosenbergs were killed in the electric chair for allegedly being Soviet spies. The Board of Education’s questions reek of this era.
So what now? Well we aren’t giving up: The more we think about it, the more important the case is. It is essential that hi school students everywhere know that the administration of a particular school or Board can‘t get away with whatever it wants, that if we know our rights then we can win in Supreme Court. The court case, when and if we win, will have effect on both state and national level, in an indirect way. It could set a precedent for hi school students everywhere to point to in court, and bring judges to the realization that they might have to rule in favor of the people.
By the time you read this, we will have filed an appeal in the District Court of Appeals, the next higher court. And if we don’t win there, then we will appeal it to the California Supreme Court. And we will eventually win because we don’t believe the School Board can get away with what they’re doing forever. Students will seize their rights through the courts or outside of them.
[Historical Note: The Red Tide was a revolutionary high school underground newspaper and youth organization that existed from 1971-1981. See: http://theredtide.wordpress.com/]