by Susie Steimle and Betty Yu

STOCKTON (KPIX) — A Northern California high school newspaper story about a student working in the porn industry created a standoff between district officials who wanted to kill the story and student journalists who had to fight to tell it.

Student journalists at Bear Creek High School in Stockton say their story published in the Bruin Voice was never meant to be a salacious piece.

READ MORE: 1 Dead, 1 Injured In Shooting Near San Jose Park


 

They say the Lodi Unified School District’s effort to kill the story is what made it headline news.

“The students told me when they delivered their papers today they were rushed the students couldn’t wait to get their copy,” said Bear Creek High School journalism teacher Kathi Duffel.

Duffel says she’s a firm believer in the First Amendment and this semester she fell into an opportunity to give her students a master class on the importance of a free press.

“These are all stories about our students and they all deserve to be told,” said Duffel. “For us it was all about telling the story of a girl who has struggled since her early teen years to find her path.”

It all started when rumors started circulating about 18-year-old student Caitlin Fink, who is working in the porn industry and was subject to some bullying as a result. The paper wanted to give her the chance to tell her side of the story.

“People think that if you’re in adult entertainment you’re obligated to have sex with anyone and you’re not,” Fink told KPIX 5’s Betty Yu on Friday. “You can still have morals and do a stripping job. A job is a job, sex work is still real work.”

Editor-in-Chief Gabriella Backus says the story if far from sex. Instead, it gives a real-life glimpse into an 18-year-old girl who had to move out of her parents’ house and start paying rent. She turned to porn for money and because it made her feel empowered.

“They don’t understand what being a student is like and they definitely don’t understand the cultural climate of teenagers,” said Backus. “We wanted to humanize her as much as possible.”

READ MORE: Fire Crews Contain 15-Acre Vegetation Fire In Discovery Bay

The district never wanted this story to run. It threatened Duffel in a letter, calling her insubordinate saying she could lose her job.

But Duffel lawyered up and the district gave in.

The school district didn’t want to talk for this story but released a statement saying in part: “Lodi Unified School District is very pleased that the process we have been engaged in has resulted in an article that meets legal requirements. We will always be diligent in our efforts when student safety is at issue.”

Duffel says it’s a lesson in watchdog journalism. She vows to never let the district take control of their content.

“If you were told every time you do a story you have to hand it over to a government official beforehand, what would that do to our press in this country?” said Duffel.

This isn’t Duffel’s first fight with the district and she’s been threatened with legal action before. She says she is worried she could lose her job but that doesn’t mean she’ll back down.


 

As for Caitlin Fink, she says her parents don’t approve of her decisions and she’s staying with a friend’s family, paying them $200 a month.

She says she got her start by selling erotic photographs of herself online and has signed with a Los Angeles-based agency to shoot professional porn scenes, though she has yet to start. She says her stripping gig pays $15 an hour plus tips. She also works as a dishwasher at Red Robin in Stockton.

MORE NEWS: Hertl Scores Twice In 500th NHL Game, Helps Sharks Defeat Avalanche

“I believe that you don’t have to go to college to be successful,” Fink said. “I don’t plan to go to college. I just plan to just start my journey and see where it takes me.”