Jolly Roger Unable to Print
The Drake High School newspaper, The Jolly Roger, is not able to print their magazine due to the Tamalpais Union High School District Print shop shutting down. The Jolly Roger and the Tam district have a contract with the California Schools Employee Association (CSEA). This contract lays out the guidelines of printing with the Tamalpais Print shop. The Jolly Roger has been printing with the Tamalpais print shop for at least 18 years, according to the paper’s advisor Mary Jane Jones. Now, they have nowhere to turn.
“The Tam Union District Printer was fired and the position was closed in December of last year, and the classified union staff…have a clause in their contract saying once you eliminate a position you cannot go outside the district to fill that job.” Said Jolly Roger ed-in-chief, Aaron Silverstein. The position cannot be filled by someone outside the district for 39 months because of this clause. This bars the Jolly Roger from printing for over three years.
The Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) is currently in negotiations with the CSEA to find a way to let the Jolly Roger continue to be able to print. “The contractual agreement our District has with our local chapter of the California Schools Employees Association (CSEA) requires that we negotiate any reassignment or “contracting out” of any work formerly performed by CSEA that went through a layoff procedure,” said head of TUHSD school board Laura Anderson. She very is positive about the outcome, “The Board has authorized District leadership personnel to negotiate a settlement agreement with our classified union representatives. Currently, a state appointed mediator is helping resolve the contract dispute. The Board has been kept in the loop and is optimistic that we will reach an amicable resolution for all involved parties.” Although Anderson might feel optimistic, this is a long process. “We do not have a quick fix because the situation is complex,” said district superintendent David Yoshihara.
The Jolly Roger has contacted the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) because this case is potentially a violation of student free expression rights. “I don’t know how far you could argue that this is a violation of the first amendment. I would argue it is, but that is my personal view,” said Silverstein. “I am talking to the student press law center and they have offered to give us a pro-bono lawyer if we need to do that but I would really like to not take steps that way, hopefully I will make it out to the board meeting tomorrow night, express my frustration and the best thing that could happen is the district works things out with the classified union as soon as possible.”
In an email to Jones, a lawyer for the SPLC, Mike Hiestand wrote that he believes the Jolly Roger does have a case. “My initial legal take is that the students could probably sue as a harmed third party to have the agreement voided as unconstitutional. A school district does not have the right to enter into a contract that takes away students rights both under federal and state laws in this case.”
Although this is one approach to fight this problem, Hiestand agrees with Silverstein that it should be avoided. “That is the lawsuit approach. It would be nice to avoid that. The thing is the penalty – hitting students who did nothing wrong by taking away their newspaper for 3 years – is outrageous. The grownups here need to fix things.”
This contract has been flexible before. Both the Tam News and the Redwood Bark left the contract that limits them to only print with the Tamalpais print shop. Both publications felt that the print shop could not meet their needs. “Because the reason you guys were able to do that is technically you guys said that the district print shop wasn’t able to fulfill your printing needs so you and Redwood were allowed to go outside the district to print,” said Silverstein.
This is not an option for Drake. “We don’t really have the funds to do that right now, hopefully we will be one day to make a fully colored magazine or an actual newspaper, that’s what I want to do, but right now we’re not able to,” said Silverstein.
As of now, the Jolly Roger is focused on their online publication. “We are doing what we can to promote an online Jolly Roger, which supports our ‘Green Schools’ principles as a school, allows my amazing Jolly Roger team to provide the most up to date news and is in line with industry standards,” said Drake principle Liz Seabury. The Jolly Roger does continue to make their layout for every issue. “We keep writing the stories and we keep fixing it up and creating a package they just have no where to send it to. There is a Jolly Roger issue, everything is made, the front cover is done, it is just about sending it to a place,” said Silverstein, “The biggest thing for me is the ability to share students opinions, share stories that need to be told, share news that needs to be talked about. The truth is it is a easier when it is words on a page and not words on a computer screen.”