The Los Angeles Unified School District rescinded Daniel Pearl Magnet High School journalism teacher Adriana Chavira’s suspension on Friday. The decision marked a victory for Chavira, whose story quickly gained national attention as a David vs. Goliath struggle against student censorship.
Chavira estimates that it was in May when she first heard the suspension would come, a decision that hinged on her refusal to take down a student article naming an unvaccinated school librarian, and she says the district’s decision still looms over her.
“The three-day suspension was shorter than I expected,” Chavira tells LAMag. “But even one day would not be justified because I knew what I was doing was within the law.”
When the suspension finally came, Chavira says, she was frustrated and confused that the district could so clearly violate the law. Could the librarian named in the article be considering a lawsuit? Was this an effort of self-protection on the district’s part? She wonders but does not know. And though the suspension’s lift brought massive feelings of relief, it also did little to assuage Chavira’s confusion.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” she says. “Why did it ever reach this far?”
Growing up in a family that organized themselves around a nightly news ritual, Chavira knew she wanted to be a journalist by the eighth grade. She even learned to read Spanish by combing through her father’s issues of La Opinión. After cultivating a career as a reporter, she made a quick transition to educator while participating in a boot camp the LAUSD hosted for people looking to change careers. She was hired to teach before she even began her credential program. In her 20 years as an educator, 14 of which she has spent at DPMHS, she’s never faced something like this. As a matter of fact, one of her former principals emerged as one of her staunchest supporters.
The national attention and support she has received, meanwhile, has taken Chavira by surprise.
“I knew from the beginning that this was a story,” she says. What she didn’t anticipate was that it would be a national one. Even the family of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, whom Chavira’s school is named after, offered their support. Chavira herself talks about the multiple messages she has fielded on social media from educators and former aspiring journalism students who faced similar struggles with censorship. Some felt these challenges helped cement their goals. Some felt completely discouraged and gave up.
And though the suspension and subsequent lift has not changed the way Chavira has approached her own teaching, it has led to what she calls an increased feeling of empowerment in her students. “They recognize how much of a voice they have,” she says. “And that their voices matter.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign for our newsletters today