A year ago Bakersfield high-school journalists and gay and lesbian students faced censorship over stories in their newspaper. Now a judge has approved a free-speech policy that will protect future student journalists tackling important topics.

"It shows student journalists still have the right to think about and explore more sensitive issues, such as homosexuality, in an in-depth, educational manner," former Kernal editor Maria Krauter told a Bakersfield newspaper.

Krauter and her Kernal colleagues were set to run a four-story spread about on-campus views of homosexuality in April 2005. But at the eleventh hour the school's principal pulled the stories, citing unnamed threats to gay and lesbian students.

The stories were eventually published in November 2005, but the ACLU/SC's lawsuit continued to win a new policy that requires administrators to consider alternatives before censoring students.

"From day one the students knew they had been wrongly censored and vowed to make sure this didn't happen to the next generation of Kern students," said ACLU/SC attorney Christine Sun, who represented the students. "Under this policy, the students would not have been censored in the first place."