LAW AND ETHICS
At El Estoque, we emphasize creating high-quality content that adheres to the ethical standards outlined in our editorial policy. We strive to maintain journalistic integrity by fact-checking all of our information, removing bias from stories and writing from an informed standpoint — all while exercising our rights as student journalists.
El Estoque is incredibly blessed to be able to publish content without censorship from school administrators, even when we are covering controversial topics. The journalists on our publication have great freedom in publishing whatever content we feel is necessary to educating the public and sharing the diverse stories of students and faculty.
Under our school’s support of the First Amendment, we have been able to cover controversial issues.
STUDENT PRESS LAW
Even before we dive into the reporting process, students in the Writing for Publication course undergo a month-long unit where they learn student press law and ethics using materials from the Student Press Law Center, Scholastic Press Rights Commission, First Amendment Center and the Journalism Education Association’s curriculum.
Some of the key court rulings students learn about include Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), Miller v. California (1973), Bethel v. Fraser (1986), Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988), Dean v. Utica (2004) and Morse v. Frederick (2007).
Another aspect of the curriculum is the instruction of California Education Code 48907, which protects student expression in our state, emphasizes the importance of a free press, explains how to handle ethical challenges and provides laws that allow students to protect the anonymity of their sources.
In the Journalism and Multimedia Design courses, I teach a refresher presentation at the beginning of the year about the legal and ethical in and outs and practice decision making by applying their knowledge to case scenarios the I prepare with the heads team.
Whenever our publication finds itself in a tricky situation, the heads team gathers for a meeting and votes on how to proceed, seeking input from SPLC lawyers and SPRC advisers as necessary.
FORMER JUDGE IN BROCK v. TURNER CASE
HIRED AS LHS JV GIRLS TENNIS COACH
In a story I wrote about the hiring of recalled judge Aaron Persky — who presided over the 2015 People v. Turner case sentencing Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in prison for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman — as the JV girls tennis coach at Lynbrook HS, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in order to get the necessary factual information for the story. Because LHS is a story within our district, I felt that it was important to share the truth with the community and thus sent a FOIA request to obtain Persky’s job application.
In addition, I did my best to include all perspectives. After Persky was hired, many community members were in an uproar that the Fremont Union High School District (FUHSD) hired Persky despite his background. FUHSD later addressed the concern, explaining that they were unaware of his judicial history upon hiring him. Regardless, Persky was fired from his position, leaving some members of the LHS girls tennis team feeling lost, as they no longer had a coach. Because of the complexity of the situation and diversity in perspectives, I contacted sources that held all of these different viewpoints. First and foremost, I contacted the Fremont Union High School District to get their perspective on the situation and allow them to address the negative claims others were making against them. I then reached out to the captain of the LHS Varsity girls tennis team, who expressed her disappointment at Persky’s removal from his position. Another key interviewee was a LHS alumna, who created a Change.org petition demanding Persky’s dismissal. Unfortunately, I was unable to interview Persky himself, although I made multiple attempts to contact him.
By understanding the protection of student expression in California, I was able to publish this story, despite it being a relatively controversial topic.
Student press freedom is the core of El Estoque’s ability to report on important events and topics, and so all students celebrate landmark dates and celebratory week such as Constitution Day, Student Press Freedom Day and Scholastic Journalism Week by sharing content they have created on their personal social media accounts. Last year, El Estoque was one of 12 schools to receive the First Amendment Press Freedom Award.
First Amendment to the United States Constitution
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
California Education Code 48907
(a) Pupils of the public schools, including charter schools, shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press including, but not limited to, the use of bulletin boards, the distribution of printed materials or petitions, the wearing of buttons, badges, and other insignia, and the right of expression in official publications, whether or not the publications or other means of expression are supported financially by the school or by use of school facilities, except that expression shall be prohibited which is obscene, libelous, or slanderous. Also prohibited shall be material that so incites pupils as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.
(b) The governing board or body of each school district or charter school and each county board of education shall adopt rules and regulations in the form of a written publications code, which shall include reasonable provisions for the time, place, and manner of conducting such activities within its respective jurisdiction.
(c) Pupil editors of official school publications shall be responsible for assigning and editing the news, editorial, and feature content of their publications subject to the limitations of this section. However, it shall be the responsibility of a journalism adviser or advisers of pupil publications within each school to supervise the production of the pupil staff, to maintain professional standards of English and journalism, and to maintain the provisions of this section.
(d) There shall be no prior restraint of material prepared for official school publications except insofar as it violates this section. School officials shall have the burden of showing justification without undue delay prior to a limitation of pupil expression under this section.
(e) “Official school publications” refers to material produced by pupils in the journalism, newspaper, yearbook, or writing classes and distributed to the student body either free or for a fee.
(f) This section does not prohibit or prevent the governing board or body of a school district or charter school from adopting otherwise valid rules and regulations relating to oral communication by pupils upon the premises of each school.
(g) An employee shall not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against solely for acting to protect a pupil engaged in the conduct authorized under this section, or refusing to infringe upon conduct that is protected by this section, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Section 2 of Article I of the California Constitution.
(Amended by Stats. 2010, Ch. 142, Sec. 2. (SB 438) Effective January 1, 2011.)
El Estoque strives for all staff members to be dedicated, well-trained and passionate and provide consistent and diverse coverage of all local stakeholders through its student-run website, social media accounts and print news magazine. Its multiplatform content will be relevant, informative and interesting to the audience and attempt to affect positive change. Through strong communication and collaboration, the El Estoque staff will provide a welcoming and fun atmosphere in order to foster strong relationships between reporters and with members of the community. El Estoque will be a trusted open forum, providing unbiased, truthful and accurate content through maintaining high quality standards and professionalism in all interactions. It will exercise the press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment and California Ed Code 48907 while maintaining a strong ethical code.
Staff members are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution and by Section 48907 of the California Education Code. It is the editorial board and the adviser’s responsibility to ensure “prohibited expression” – libel, obscenity and inflammatory material – not be published.
Neither reporters nor photographers will participate in any illegal act in pursuit of a story. Reporters are responsible for understanding the law pertaining to libel, invasion of privacy and copyright. Members of staff discovered abusing their privileges might be asked to leave.
Code of ethics
Members of the El Estoque staff believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility. The El Estoque staff shares a dedication to ethical behavior and adopts this code to declare its principles and standards of practice.
Seek Truth and Report It: Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
Minimize Harm: Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.
Act Independently: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.
Be Accountable: Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
The Editorial Board consists of the Editors-in-Chief, Managing Editors and the adviser. This group may convene to resolve conflicts or ethical issues pertaining to journalistic content and vote on resolutions.
Letters to the editor
If the reader has a question or concern with the content published, they are encouraged to write a letter to the editor. A staff response is only appropriate when a fact needs to be clarified. It is the policy of El Estoque to allow the reader to have the last word. Letters of any length should be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: El Estoque Editorial Board, 21840 McClellan Rd., Cupertino, CA 95014. They become the sole property of El Estoque and may be edited for length, clarity or accuracy. Letters cannot be returned and will be published on the platform in which the letter is tailored to if possible.
Errors/Corrections/Take down requests
El Estoque must always strive for the highest standards of accuracy, completeness and careful research in its presentation of material. In the case that inaccurate material is published, the staff will assume responsibility for the error and correct it as soon as possible. If the reader believes such an error has been made, they are encouraged to contact the respective reporter. We will correct any factual or source representation errors and document the date and time the correction was posted at the bottom of the story or in the next issue of the magazine. El Estoque does not typically take down stories that are factually accurate.
Reporting and interviewing
Reporters are to conduct face-to-face interviews. Phone interviewing should only be used for fact-checking, follow-up questions or instances where necessary sources are unable to meet in person. Unless in extreme cases, interviewing via the Internet or writing out questions for interviewees to respond to in written form is unacceptable, and in said cases, it must clearly be stated that the interview was conducted in a written manner. Reporters are expected to have all interviews on audio record, or in cases where interviewees opt out of a recording, reporters are obligated to take detailed, accurate notes.
Reporters may use the Internet to research for and support a story, but the Internet should not be a primary source for your story. Reporters must attribute articles or online sources in their stories if they choose to use them. Talking to people in person – not on the Internet – is the best way to get authentic quotes that form the basis of a strong story.
Student sources are the most important part of nearly every story, and reporters must make efforts to ensure the reader is able to clearly see student angles and viewpoints. Reporters must interview sources representing the major sides of news stories. A majority of stories must include an adult expert source. All stories, with the exception of editorials, columns and reviews, must include at least three sources. Furthermore, sources quoted in stories will, upon request, be presented a copy of their quotes for confirmation by the reporter assigned to the story. If a source demands that a quote placed on the record be retracted, the Editorial Board will discuss the possible ramifications of printing the article and act accordingly, but is not obliged to comply with the source’s request.
It is the policy of El Estoque that stories, photographs and pages are not to be reviewed by any non-staff member prior to publication. The reporter can, and should, check quotations and facts in his or her story, especially if the quotation is controversial and/or the interview was not tape recorded.
Reporters will make genuine efforts to include sources and subjects for photographs who represent all parts of the Monta Vista High School population, including the opinions of minority beliefs on campus. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, ethnicity, age, gender and social group. Staff management will make a conscious effort to utilize the audits system to ensure diversity each cycle. Additionally, staff reporters must avoid repeating sources unless an overused source is integral to a specific story.
In most cases, all names will be used, even if a story is humiliating to the subject. Withholding a name will only occur in rare cases when a student’s safety is in danger, the law requires it or the Editorial Board deems it appropriate for the case at hand. The adviser will not be notified of the student’s identity; only the reporters working on the story will know the source’s name.
Involvement/Conflict of interest
Staff members are not to write about or photograph their friends, family members or clubs/teams with which they are currently affiliated. A column would be an exception to this policy. Reporters cannot write about each other, the newspaper, the adviser or members of other student publication staff unless newsworthiness makes that coverage necessary.
Reporters who plagiarize – fabricate quotations or statistics, knowingly use copyrighted material, intentionally misrepresent a subject – will be removed from staff. These offenses are unethical and the damage done is irreparable, both to our publication’s integrity and the community. Reporters who accept off-the-record information are expected not to print it.
El Estoque encourages readers to use their full name when posting comments; however, it will not maintain the validity of the posted names. Anonymous comments are only justifiable if they add to the discussion at hand even with the loss of identity. El Estoque gives the opportunity to comment in order to foster a healthy debating environment and reserve the right to reject comments that stray away from that objective. Specifically, El Estoque reserves the right to delete, move or edit comments that: use any language that is derogatory, abusive, libelous or discriminatory on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual preference, age, region, disability; are repeated messages, meaningless messages or spam; threaten others, including the author of the article or other individuals that post comments on the site; publish or distribute any content that advertises or solicits goods or services; by the staff of El Estoque’s judgement are unacceptable.
The Staff Editorial will be printed without attribution to the writer(s) each issue. It is intended to represent the opinion of the majority of staff members. All other El Estoque articles will be printed with bylines.
Columnists must also be reporters. A column should have substance and be grounded in real, lived experience. It should not target a specific person, entity or system without supporting evidence and facts.
The staff should strive to provide equal coverage to all sports. Boys and girls sports should be covered equitably. Reporters are required to attend games and/or practice to research for their sports stories. Every effort should be made to see the subjects of sports stories in action.
All posts to be published on behalf of the El Estoque on official media accounts should be reviewed by either the Public Relations Editor(s) or Managing Editors. All rights to the photographs, videos or any other multimedia content taken by El Estoque reporters with an intent to publish belong to El Estoque and may not be used or posted for personal use before publication with El Estoque. Managers of El Estoque social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat) will not follow or engage with other students through the form of comments or direct messaging while logged on to official accounts.
Death of a person on campus
Any current student, staff member or building administrator who dies during the year will be covered in a tasteful and respectful manner. Standard coverage will include factual information (date of birth, date of death, survivors, organizations, hobbies and interests) in a 300-400 word obituary and include one mug shot. El Estoque staff will first obtain permission from the deceased’s family before publishing any information regarding the cause of death. No page, spread or issue will be dedicated to or in memory of the deceased.
All photographs and artwork will be attributed to the photographer or creator using a consistent format on the website, social media platforms and in the newsmagazine. Photos and artwork will also only be used with permission from the creator.
Photo by FirstName LastName // El Estoque
Photo Illustration by FirstName LastName // El Estoque
Graphic by FirstName LastName // El Estoque
Photo by FirstName Last Name // Used with permission
“Title of piece” by CCUsername // Licensed under CC letters-numbers
Photos and videos created for El Estoque are the property of El Estoque and may not be published on other platforms (including personal social media sites, blogs and websites) until they have been published by El Estoque and with appropriate credit.
Equipment use/Check out
All equipment will be housed in the equipment cupboard. All equipment should be checked out by a head editor or visuals editor during class time prior to use and checked in upon return. Equipment should be returned immediately and in the condition it was received; damage or loss of El Estoque equipment will result in fines equivalent to the replacement cost(s). Special care should be taken to ensure the batteries are charged and all attachments are kept together. A neck strap should be worn at all times with cameras.
El Estoque will accept advertisements submitted with a signed contract and full payment providing they do not advocate illegal activity for minors or are deemed by the Editorial Board racist, sexist or otherwise inappropriate for El Estoque’s audience. Advertisements may be rejected due to space limitations, though El Estoque is obligated by law to provide equal space for advertisements representing opposing viewpoints.
Reporters are free to access public meetings and quote those who speak at them.
Press Pass Use
During class, staff members may need to leave to conduct interviews, take photos or do research. The press pass can function as a hall pass. The press pass will also allow reporters and photographers to be admitted to campus events, such as sporting events, plays, dances and club events. Abuse of the press pass will lead to its confiscation and could also lead to removal from staff.