The Student News Site of Marshfield High School

The Marshfield Times

The Student News Site of Marshfield High School

The Marshfield Times

The Student News Site of Marshfield High School

The Marshfield Times

OCR findings require changes for district

Many rooms in the main building are not handicap-accessible and require change.
Requirements call for physcial changes to buildings as well an Non-Discrimination notices being published in documents throughout district.

Due to the recent visit of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the Coos Bay School District is making efforts to increase equality in its schools, including featuring a Non-Discrimination notice in many of its future publications.

According to Vice Principal Bryan Trendell, the visit occurred because the OCR has an obligation to visit a certain amount of schools per year.

“Every year they have to go to so many schools and do a campus visit and it was our turn,” Trendell said. “We have CTE [Career and Technical Education] programs which are federally funded. Any time you take federal money they’re going to have to see what you’re doing with their federal money.”

Principal Doug Holland said the OCR saw inequality in the federally funded CTE programs, including carpentry, manufacturing, technology and radio.

“When they looked at the statistics of our students in the CTE programs they found we have a small percentage of minority students and female students,” Holland said.

The OCR is giving the school district until Aug. 31, 2014 to comply with changes it sees needed to make the school more equitable. In order to fulfill these obligations, Marshfield will be attempting to broaden the student demographic in the CTE programs.

“We need to change our recruiting practices,” Trendell said. “If it becomes a situation where they [minorities and female students] are not interested in those classes then you need to start looking at what you offer.”

Additionally, Marshfield was directed by the OCR to ensure equality in the boys and girls locker rooms as well as making buildings more available for the handicapped. Holland said the buildings are not handicap reachable due to the time they were built.

“The guidelines to build a building are different now than when the Main building was built in 1938,” Holland said. “We are now much more sensitive to handicap accessibility.”

The OCR is also requesting that a Non-Discrimination notice be included in all documents in the Coos Bay School District over two pages in length, including the school newspaper to ensure the district is equitable. However, Holland said the school newspaper may not fall in the same category.

“We are putting it [Non-Discrimination Notice] in other publications, like newsletters, student handbooks and all other publications from now on,” Holland said. “The question is, does the student newspaper fall under the same purview.”

Oregon’s revised statute 351.649 states, “Student journalists are responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature and advertising content of school-sponsored media.”

Editor-in-Chief of the Marshfield Times newspaper, Heather Whitty, said there is an emphasis on the content being determined by students.

“We hand out story ideas, and the editors select the best stories,” Whitty said. “After that we get together as a staff and assign the stories.”

Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center, said the OCR and the school district may have the right to tell the school to change other documents, but they cannot interfere with the school newspaper, as it is ran by students.

“The federal law requires the school to say things, not students,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein also cites FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] as an example of a law many school administrators have used to censor school newspapers.

“For example, FERPA states that school officials can’t disclose private info about students, but nothing about non-school officials, such as students, doing it,” Goldstein said.

The OCR did not respond to attempts to contact it about its requirements for publishing its Non-Discrimination Notice.

Dawn Granger, Coos Bay School District superintendent, said the notice should be included because the newspaper is part of the school district.

“The notices fall under the fact that it is a school district newspaper,” Granger said. “I am pretty sure it is a requirement.”

According to Goldstein, even if the OCR requested the notice to be included, that law does not supersede the freedom of press given to school newspapers.

“A regulatory obligation does not trump a civil right,” Goldstein said.

Whitty said the newspaper is mostly self-sufficient and is legally secure from being told what to print.

“The newspaper is protected by the first amendment, which means no one can legally tell us what to print,” Whitty said. “In my eyes, this means we should be able to print whatever we want, without exception.”

All of the things the OCR is requesting are suggestions, and the Coos Bay School District is responsible for funding the changes. However, according to Holland, federal funding will be taken away if the suggestions are not taken.

“If we don’t comply with their suggestions, we would lose federal funding and have to fund the CTE Programs from our own budget,” Holland said.

Granger said meeting the requirements set by the OCR is necessary and said she feels the changes undergone by the Coos Bay School District will show the district’s desire to be equal.

“In a district such as ours where hundreds of thousands of dollars come in from federal funding we certainly would not want to be non-compliant with that,” Granger said. “We also believe we do want to be non-discriminatory.”

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OCR findings require changes for district