Underground Newspaper Editor Receives Free Speech Award

An Arizona high school student who published an underground student newspaper has been named the winner of the 1999 Scholastic Press Freedom Award.

The award, sponsored by the Student Press Law Center and the National Scholastic Press Association/Associated Collegiate Press, is given each year to the high school or college student journalist or student news medium that has demonstrated outstanding support for the free press rights of students.

Ben Powers, editor and publisher of The Central Voice, an alternative student newspaper distributed at Central High School in Phoenix, was presented with the award at the JEA/NSPA national convention in Albuquerque on April 10.

Powers was selected as this year’s award winner after he successfully fought for the right to distribute his publication on campus. School officials confiscated copies of the paper twice and threatened Powers with legal action and school punishment before finally backing down and allowing The Central Voice to be distributed on school grounds.

Powers began publishing his paper after school officials began censoring the official student newspaper, Central Echoes, and replaced the paper’s faculty adviser.