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Clash as Unihi raises student rights issues

This story originally appeared in the Times on March 16, 1972.

WEST LOS ANGELES—The right of students to distribute an underground newspaper called the Red Tide on the University High School campus remained in doubt Wednesday as officials attempted to sort out the issues raised by a four-hour student demonstration in the school’s Administration Building earlier this week.

The incident concerned a state law that became effective March 4, granting high school students the right to distribute literature and petitions on campus

Two students, Robin Prentiss and Michael Letwin, were suspended by Principal Warren Juhnke on March 8 for offering issues of the newspaper for 10 cents.

Juhnke also confiscated some issues of the tabloid-sized paper which charged, among other things, that the administration willingly allowed police officers on campus to harass students.

This week when the suspended students returned to school, they organized a demonstration outside the Administration Building demanding that all confiscated issues of the paper be returned, that all records of their suspension be erased and that the administration recognize their right to distribute the paper.

When they received no response from either Juhnke or Homer Ganz,boys vice principal, about 300 students moved into the Administration Building, blocking the hall, where they remained four hours.

In support of their complaints the students distributed a special issue of the Red Tide quoting the new law which they said had been ignored by the principal.

The law, however, says that literature may be distributed as long as it is not offered for sale and is cleared first with the school principal eo ensure against libel, slander and obscenity. The issue has been clarified to an extent by Eva Hain, a public information officer for the Los Angeles City School District.

Juhnke was working under the assumption that the old state Board of Education policy was still in effect, she said, one which excluded all but official school literature from campus distribution.

“However,” she said, “even under the new regulations, students were out of line. They did not clear the material through the principal and they did sell it.”

The students who sat in the Administrtion Building also would be subject to suspension for disrupting the school program.

“However, Dr. Juhnke has said he did not feel it would serve any purpose to have mass suspensions,” she said. “?Some of the students felt they had legitimate grievances and he wants to work it out with them.”

No other high schools on the West Side have encountered any proglem with outside literature on campus. However, at the time of the Unihi incident, there were other schools where the same confusion over the policy existed.

“Up until today, when I heard that there was a statement from Jerry Halverson (legal adviser for the Los Angeles School District) that there was a new policy, I would have assumed that the old policy was still in effect and used it as a guideline,” said Mrs. Josephine Jimenez, principal of Hamilton High School.

The law on which the old policy was based has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court ruling and the state Board of Education has adopted a new policy in accordance with the state law effective March 4.

Halverson, speaking for the Los Angeles schools, said principals have been informed of the new policy at general meetings and through mailed statements.

“There were some cases in which we didn’t get the information to the principals,” he said. “It’s not their fault. What we are doing now is sending out a copy of the state Board of Education policy with suggested procedures for administering it.”

The futgure of The Red Tide at Unihi remains unresolved because the students who want to distribute it still have not presented it to Juhnke for approval.

“I have not received a request for the distribution of The Red Tide,” Juhnke said, “and therefore I have not made a decision.”

However, he added, student demands that confiscated copies of the paper be returned and that records of the suspended students be expunged have been refused since the actions were taken under rules that are still standing in the new policy.

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