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News

Obama visits Los Altos area

Obama visits Los Altos area

President Obama made a fundraising stop today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills, an appearance that spurred traffic disruptions, helicopters scouting overhead and protesters. In the wake of his visit, unknown persons, apparently no fans of ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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