Legal advice: First Amendment case

I’m currently winding down my tenure as opinions editor at my school newspaper. Right now we’re in the process of choosing our staff for next year. We’ve had one writer who always hands in his good (for a sophomore) articles in on time, takes the paper very seriously, and would make an excellent editor. He applied for a few page editor (which means you get your own section) positions and would be a good bet to get one if not this year then next year.

However, he’s an Orthodox Jew, which means he can’t work on Friday nights. He’s very dilligent and I’d presume that he’d be able to finish his section before our typical Friday deadline (he could actually finish on Friday so long as he got home before dark). This is not something we can’t accomidate.

Unfortunately, we have two faculty advisers, one who’s an affable guy and the other is such a monster we hum the Darth Vader music when she walks into the room. She has decided that this sophomore won’t be able to get a position next year because he can’t be here Friday nights. The kicker is she probably won’t even give him an associate position, and most associates don’t come on Fridays anyway.

I’m already going to write a letter to the ACLU about this, I hear they give free consultations, but I want to know a) if you think this is a good case and b) what you think the outcome would be.

Okay, this is something I know about, having run a large college newspaper myself.

It sounds like you’re a weekly, right? Otherwise, I’d be wondering why the heck you’re at work on a Friday in the first place. Another question, more relevant to the situation: How much literal control to these “advisers” have? If you are not independent of these advisers, I think your best option first is to have nice adviser talk to evil adviser. Or, if possible, simply have nice adviser overrule the evil one. After all, you already hate her; what have you got to lose?

Another potent argument that might win evil adviser over: You’re exposing yourselves to a big-time lawsuit. She is actively and vocally participating in religious discrimination. In fact, I can’t believe she’d be so stupid as to blatantly say “he can’t have this job because of a religious requirement.” The position of Opinion Editor does not involve breaking news, requiring late nights, so you have no legal legs to stand on in this.

We found a way to give a very talented writer our hockey reporter position, even though she had a brain condition that prevented her for driving to away games for six months. Surely there’s a way to find a way around what looks like a far more flexible situation.

Also, what brings you to DC in four months? You interning somewhere? I’m very curious to hear!

Most important question: public school?

–Cliffy, Esq.

Given the facts as you’ve laid them out, there’s no need to go to the ACLU. Simply report your advisor’s comments to the school administration, along with the subtle suggestion that you’d hate to see the school sued, and that should do the trick.

If things work the right way, you might even get yourself a new advisor.

Actually, we’re a monthly, but this week was a deadline week, hence, I’m here because I’m too tired to go out after working from 8 AM to 9 PM.

Cliffy Yeah, public school.
kunilou Thanks, I think that’s what I’ll do now
SNenc These advisers are fairly powerful when it comes to choosing editors, and the ogre is way overstepping her bounds in doing so. Luckily, the guy who’ll become editor-in-chief next year isn’t afraid to stand up to her, so I was hoping that he’d try to outargue her. The affable one, good a guy as he is, would be no match against her. Unfortunately, this year’s EiC reveres her as a goddess because she worked at a “real newspaper” (USA Today :rolleyes: ) and defers to her on nearly every issue. While the sophomore isn’t applying for opinions, it’s one of the top positions so this year’s sports or graphics editor will get it, breaking news isn’t even a major deal for the other sections as well. It’s merely a question of when the section would be done, which he can do early, which is what makes her claim so ridiculous.

Actually, I will be in DC in 4 months so I can start school at American University.

I’ll postpone any action until the editorial staff for next year is announced because I’d want to evaluate whether or not less talented people were given the position over him. That may not happen this year, but as long as the ogre is on staff it’ll happen next year. Luckily, I know people who’ll be able to take action then. Still, if he’s left off the staff entirely, the ogre’s going down.

Cliffy, do you not have the equivalent of human rights codes? Statutes passed by the state legislature to require companies, schools, etc., to respect the human rights of individuals, even if they are private institutions?

Oh, this is a high school paper… Hmm, that might change the situation. The Supreme Court has ruled in the past that faculty have a lot of control over high school papers and, basically, the First Amendment doesn’t apply because it’s an academic endeavour, not a proper media outlet.

That said, that decision related only to content, not job positioning. And if you’re in a public school, your teacher/adviser cannot factor religion into ANY decision AT ALL. This is something that the aforementioned Supreme Court has thus far done a very, very good job of: Keeping religion out of public schools. Given that, kunilou is right. Go to the principal… he/she will straighten things out. If that fails, take it to the school board, since they’re the ones that would actually get sued over something like this.

And given your attitude of USA Today, I think you’re gonna go far in this business, if it’s your chosen profession. I was just at AU tonight, btw. Nice place they’ve got there. :slight_smile: