A Stanislaus County pro-life organization wants to invite students in the Lodi Unified School District to enter a speech contest, but district officials denied the group's request to distribute fliers promoting the contest on high school campuses.
Jan Zarczynski, a member of Stanislaus County Pro-Life, asked Lodi Unified trustees at Tuesday's school board meeting to reconsider a decision by Dawn Vetica, assistant superintendent for secondary education, and Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer not to allow the fliers to be distributed.
The speech contest has been an annual event in Stanislaus, but organization officials decided to expand the contest this year to include San Joaquin County, Zarczynski said.
Lodi Unified board members directed Nichols-Washer to handle Zarczynski's request and didn't comment further.
In a letter dated March 22, Nichols-Washer told the group's president, Ernie Yoshino of Modesto, that she upheld Vetica's decision to disallow distribution of the fliers. The superintendent cited board policy that governs distribution of materials or advertisements.
The policy forbids distribution of materials that promote any particular political interest unless it allows advocates from all sides of the issue to be included. The policy also allows the superintendent to consider the educational value of the materials, the age or maturity level of the students and whether the materials support the basic education mission of the district.
Zarczynski told the News-Sentinel on Wednesday that the speech contest limits entries to pro-life messages. Speeches promoting a pro-choice viewpoint will not be permitted in the contest, she said.
Vetica was in a meeting Thursday and was unavailable to elaborate on why she denied distribution of the fliers.
Zarczynski said she left some fliers at the Tokay High School office in early March, but when she tried to leave some at Lodi High, she was told to submit them to the district office.
Tokay High School Vice Principal Martha Dent said Thursday she knew nothing about the fliers, but she would be surprised if anyone in the school office would accept them, as Zarczynski said they did. Dent confirmed that the fliers would have to be approved at the district office before school employees could distribute them to students.
Calls to Tracy High School and the Stockton and Ripon unified school districts were not returned Thursday. Angelica Bogetti, executive assistant at the Ripon Unified School District, said that any fliers such as the one for the speech contest are subject to approval by Superintendent Louise Johnson.
Zarczynski said she learned Thursday afternoon that she would get a phone call from Lodi Unified on Monday to make a final decision on the fliers. She said if she doesn't get a response, she will address the school board Tuesday night.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.