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Flagstaff School District Blacklists Conservative Reporter

December 14, 2023

The First Amendment doesn’t make exceptions for viewpoints the government doesn’t like. But in Arizona, the Flagstaff Unified School District is refusing to share information with local radio host Jeff Oravits because he and his show are conservative—even though the district is making the same information freely available to other reporters.

Today, the Goldwater Institute sent a letter to the district calling out this blatant violation of Jeff’s constitutional right to free speech and demanding that it treat him the same as any other reporter.

Jeff, who lives in Flagstaff and hosts The Jeff Oravits Show on 97.1 FM, called the district last week to do some research on a breaking story about cutbacks in school bus service. During the conversation, he asked to be added to the school district’s “media list”—a list of media outlets that the district uses to share press releases and other information with journalists.

It seemed like a simple request. But instead of adding Jeff to the list, the district’s director of communications and public relations started interrogating him about his politics, repeatedly asking whether his radio program was a “partisan show.” Then, he told Jeff he wouldn’t include him on the list, saying the district only allowed “non-partisan media” and naming a few other local news outlets as examples.

It’s concerning that the district is arbitrarily classifying reporters as “partisan” or “non-partisan” based on their perceived views. But more importantly, as Goldwater’s letter to the district notes, it’s unconstitutional for a public school district to restrict access to information simply because it disapproves of a journalist’s speech or viewpoint.

Public school districts should stay out of politics in the first place. What’s more, district officials should never discriminate against reporters (or anyone else) simply because officials don’t like what they’re saying.

Every single day, Goldwater fights for free speech and limited government in Arizona and around the country, and we won’t back down until the Flagstaff Unified School District does the right thing and stops violating Jeff’s constitutional rights.

You can read our letter to the school district here.

John Thorpe is a Staff Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.



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