LODI — A Stanislaus County organization that opposes abortion 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 trustees at Tuesday's board meeting to reconsider a decision by Dawn Vetica, assistant superintendent for secondary education, and Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer not to allow the fliers.
The contest has been an annual event in Stanislaus County, but the group 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.
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 on 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 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 said Wednesday that the contest only accepts entries opposing abortion. Speeches promoting a viewpoint in favor of abortion rights will not be permitted in the contest, she said.
Zarczynski said she left 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 Vice Principal Martha Dent said Thursday that she knew nothing about the fliers, but would be surprised if anyone in the school office would accept them, as Zarczynski said they did. Dent confirmed the fliers would have to be approved at the district office before school employees could distribute them.
Calls to Tracy High School and the Stockton and Ripon unified school districts were not returned Thursday. Angelica Bogetti, executive assistant at Ripon Unified, said such fliers are subject to approval by Superintendent Louise Johnson.
Zarczynski said she learned Thursday that she would get a 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 board Tuesday night.