LOS ANGELES - In a strongly-worded letter, the ACLU of Southern California along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and other members of the California Safe Schools Coalition demanded that an Orange County high school student be reinstated as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and that her record be wiped clean.

Ann Long, a senior at Troy High School in Fullerton and former editor-in-chief of her school newspaper, was removed from her position in January after publishing an article about the experiences of three gay students at Troy.

Long was shocked her article caused her to be removed from her post.

"I got the approval of my journalism adviser, I checked my facts, and all the students agreed to tell their stories in this article," said Long, who is an honors student. "I thought this was an important issue, and so did my sources, to discuss in the school newspaper because it promotes tolerance and understanding."

School and district officials gave conflicting reasons for the decision to end Long's term as editor-in-chief. A vice principal told Long she "should have known" to get parental permission before publishing the students' stories, but according to the state attorney general such permission is not required. A school district official claimed Long violated a state law requiring parental permission for school surveys that ask students about their personal beliefs about sexual behavior or family life. The law cited, however, has no relevance to Long's article.

A school principal also charged Long with disobeying her adviser's orders to get parental permission and lying about it. Long insists she was never asked to get such permission.

"Students may not be punished solely for expression that is constitutionally protected if it happens outside the school gates," said Ranjana Natarajan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "A school can't punish a student just because it may not agree with her article's content."

Members of the California Safe Schools Coalition, a statewide partnership of organizations committed to eliminating discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation in schools, are supporting Long and her right and the rights of the students featured in her article to tell their stories.

"School administrators are required by state and federal law to protect the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students," said Molly O'Shaughnessy, Director of the California Safe Schools Coalition. "By punishing a student simply for writing a newspaper article that deals responsibly with sexual orientation, they are perpetuating a climate of fear and silence for LGBT students."

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