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News

Police stress need for low speed in school zones

Police stress need for low speed in school zones


Town Crier File Photo
After two recent accidents involving cyclists and motorists, police urge caution – on both sides.

After two recent incidents of vehicles striking student bicyclists, Los Altos Police urge residents to exercise caution whe...

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Schools

Gardner Bullis School debuts new Grizzly Student Center

Gardner Bullis School debuts new Grizzly Student Center


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Students line up to check books out of the library in the new Grizzly Student Center at Gardner Bullis School.

Gardner Bullis School opened its new Grizzly Student Center earlier this month, introducing a lea...

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Community

Home improvement workshop scheduled Wednesday (Oct. 29)

The County of Santa Clara is hosting a free informational workshop on 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Road.

The workshop will offer ways single-family homeowners can increase their homes’ energy efficiency. Eligible i...

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Comment

Off the fence: TC recommends 'yes' on N

The Town Crier initially offered no position on the controversial $150 million Measure N bond on Tuesday’s ballot. But some of the reasons we gave in our Oct. 15 editorial were, on reflection, overly critical and based on inaccurate information.

We ...

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Special Sections

Long-term solutions emerge as water conservation goes mainstream

Long-term solutions emerge as water conservation goes mainstream


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Forrest Linebarger, right, installed greywater and rainwater harvesting systems at his Los Altos Hills home.

With more brown than green visible in her Los Altos backyard, Kacey Fitzpatrick admits that she’s a little e...

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Business

Local realtors scare up money for charity

Local realtors scare up money for charity


Photo courtesy of SILVAR
Realtors Gary Campi and Jordan Legge, from left, joined Nancy Domich, SILVAR President Dave Tonna and Joe Brown to raise funds for the Silicon Valley Realtors Charitable Foundation.

Los Altos and Mountain View realtors raise...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

DAVID S. NIVISON

DAVID S. NIVISON

David S. Nivison, 91 years old, and a resident of Los Altos, California since 1952, died Oct. 16, 2014 at home.  His neighbors had recently honored him as the “Mayor of Russell Ave., in recognition of 62 years of distinguished living” on that ...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

ECYS opens season Sunday

ECYS opens season Sunday


Ramya Krishna/Special to the Town Crier
The El Camino Youth Symphony rehearses for Sunday’s concert, above.

The El Camino Youth Symphony – under new conductor Jindong Cai – is scheduled to perform its season-opening concert 4 p.m....

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Spiritual Life

Christian Science Reading Room hosts webinar on prayer and healing

Christian Science practitioner and teacher Evan Mehlenbacher is scheduled to present a live Internet webinar lecture, “Prayer That Heals,” 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Christian Science Reading Room, 60 Main St., Los Altos.

Those interested ...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Informative or inappropriate?


Photo By: Marit Barton/SpeciAL TO THE TOWN CRIER
Photo Marit Barton/Special To The Town Crier

Students in the audience show their support for The Oracle at last week’s board of trustees meeting.

Call it an elaborate speech and debate class: Last week’s Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees meeting pitted high school journalists and their adult sympathizers against parents and other residents concerned over inappropriate subject matter and language in the Mountain View High School student newspaper, The Oracle.

The controversy drew a full house March 12 to the Mountain View High theater, including local television crews. More than 40 speakers offered their views.

At issue was a series of articles on high school students and sex published in a February edition of The Oracle. Depending on whom you asked, the articles were either informative and reflective of student interests or filled with prurient descriptions that never should have seen the light of day.

Diverging views

Following presentations by the journalism departments at Mountain View High and Los Altos High, which publishes The Talon, parents and students exchanged their divergent views.

Parent Moe De Luca said the articles were in violation of the student journalism classes’ code of ethics, which call to avoid “pandering to lurid curiosity.” He added that if such language appeared in a corporate newsletter, the writers would be fired “in a New York second.”

The two-page spread in question, titled “Sex & Relationships,” offered information on birth control along with statistics on the percentage of sexually active high school students. A satirical article, “Cosmo for Men,” also was an issue with some parents. It featured a photo of high school baseball players posing provocatively.

The journalism students, many on the current staff of The Oracle, defended their work as educational and written in an entertaining way.

The broader issues of the First Amendment and freedom of expression came into play. The district’s legal counsel, Chris Keiner, said student journalism is “guarded” and given broad freedoms by the state Education Code.

Superintendent Barry Groves has the option of “prior restraint” – pulling material prior to publication – but that option, Keiner said, is rarely exercised.

Groves said he “would not have censored anything” the paper’s staff wrote.

Oracle writer Abby Cunniff figured some parents were offended by a “crass” term she used. (Editor’s note: The Town Crier is choosing not to reveal the suggestive language used. Those seeking more information can refer to The Oracle’s website.)

“A lot of parents didn’t know what it meant,” she said.

Cunniff added that censorship of such articles amounts to “hindering an open, honest conversation about sex that is really needed.”

“We did not take the issue of sex lightly at all,” said Oracle Focus editor Chloe Tarrasch.

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” echoed parents on more than one occasion.

One parent noted that the language in last month’s Oracle was so bad, copies that were circulated at Blach Intermediate School were removed.

Michael Long, Mountain View High parent and former sheriff’s deputy, said criminals become who they are in part because they are “sidetracked by sexual pornography.”

“The things we promote (in the student newspaper) should be uplifting and responsible,” he said.

Former Los Altos City Councilman Ron Packard was concerned by another Oracle article he saw (“Teens Smoke at Home,” in the September issue) “that encourages or condones criminal activity.”

“Take a serious look at professional ethics and move the bar up,” Packard advised the district board.

But Fred Turner, a Stanford professor and former writer with the Boston Globe, told the board, “These folks are doing exactly what good journalists do.”

Good judgment – or lack thereof?

Judy Levy, a Sunnyvale teacher named a high school Journalism Teacher of the Year, referred to opponents when she said, “Ignorance and censorship won’t help – knowledge and good judgment will.”

But judgment, or lack thereof, was Von Packard’s concern.

“Model ethics do not allow for profane language,” he said. “We should not be fooling ourselves into thinking this adheres to a code of ethics.”

Trustee Phil Faillace asked legal counsel Keiner whether parents could review Oracle copy before print. Keiner said that action is against state law.

“What we have here,” Faillace said, “is the kind of discussion – an exchange of ideas – that we should encourage.”

He urged parents opposed to the articles to write a letter to the editor.

“I’m proud that the Oracle writer and editor stood tall,” said Trustee Joe Mitchner. “The overwhelming majority of content in The Oracle is excellent.”

The board took no action, despite calls for more restrictions on content.

“We have a solid student publication board policy based on the California School Board Association template covering California Education Code,” Groves said following the meeting. “I have faith in our sites to make good decisions regarding student publications. If there are any appeals as to a decision to publish, we will hear those appeals.”

Groves said the district would continue to recommend that people with questions about the student publications’ style or content contact the schools directly.

“I continue to be proud of the good work done by our student journalists on both The Talon and The Oracle,” he said.

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