A free press shouldn't stop at the schoolyard

Updated 10:02 AM ET, Wed November 29, 2017

Attorney Frank D. LoMonte is a professor of media law at the University of Florida, where he runs the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. As the executive director of the Student Press Law Center from 2008 until August 2017, he launched the "New Voices" initiative to enact laws protecting student journalism. The views expressed in this commentary are solely his. This is the latest installment in CNN Opinion's series on the challenges facing the media as it is under attack from critics, governments and changing technology.

(CNN)When a California judge entered an unlawful order sealing an entire lawsuit file -- including, bizarrely, even the court order imposing the seal -- outraged journalists took action to defend the public's right to know.

With the help of volunteer legal counsel, reporters Anumita Jain and Armaan Rashid filed a petition in a Contra Costa County court to unseal the case file, which involves a school district's decision to discipline a Danville student over a homemade social-media video said to depict Arabs as terrorists. The school district's decision to remove the student as president of the student government association as punishment for the video -- and then restore him to the position after a public outcry -- dominated two local school board meetings, but without access to the court file, the details of the case (including the contents of the video) remain a puzzle to the community.
Frank LoMonte
There's nothing especially novel about the case -- except that the journalis