Administrators should no longer have the power to censor information published by student journalists. An administrator’s disagreement, unclear guidelines, and damage to a school’s reputation are no excuses for the silencing of student journalists.
Ever since the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court ruling of 1988, school administrators have had the right to censor any publication that receives school funds. This ruling prohibits journalists from reporting on key issues, expressing their opinions and utilizing the full extent of their first amendment rights.
If an administrator disagrees with a student’s ideas in an editorial or the subject matter of an article, they have full power to stop this content from being published. This ability diminishes the effort of the student, since the administrator’s views are prioritized over the student’s journalistic findings. Although some may argue that censoring sensitive content would help avoid conflicts and possible lawsuits, a journalist should have every right to report on controversial issues. When students are unable to report on current events or give their opinions in an editorial due to potential conflicts, their voice is unfairly taken away.
The 1988 ruling also does not give students a clear idea of what administrators could restrict. Without a strict definition of what a principal could find inappropriate to publish, journalism students could spend weeks gathering information and composing their article, just to have it cut out from the publication entirely. Although administrators are expected to have good reason behind what they choose to censor, some could let their personal biases get in the way. This unfair process could deprive students of the ability to have their hard work published.
A student should not be punished for reporting the facts, even if the facts damage a school or group’s reputation. Journalism curriculums emphasize unbiased, factual journalism. Therefore, an administrator should not have the ability to restrict well researched and reported articles from publications. Even though this published information could potentially harm the school’s reputation, readers of school publications deserve to know the facts, and student journalists deserve to have their gathered facts shared and known.
In order to protect the first amendment rights of students, everyone should get involved in the New Voices campaign. New Voices is a student driven, nonpartisan movement that protects student journalists’ rights on the state level. To support this movement, all are welcomed to join the New Voices facebook pages and find more information on their website (splc.org/New-Voies). As more states recognize the increasing importance of protecting first amendment rights, the outdated nature of the Supreme Court ruling will be brought to light, showing the world that no student, journalist or American should ever deserve to be silenced.
Kate Whyte, Copy Editor