High school censorship calls up again in 1999

VIRGINIA — Censorship calls to the Student Press Law Center frompublic high school journalists rose more than 14 percent last year. Accordingto the Center, 367 high school student journalists or their advisers contactedthem in 1999 for legal help concerning a censorship matter. That numbertops the previous high of 321 recorded during 1998, and marks the fifthstraight annual increase.

Overall, in 1999 the SPLC staff responded to 1,624 requests from studentjournalists and their advisers seeking legal help, up only slightly fromthe 1,597 calls received the previous year. In addition, the Center respondedto 445 requests from individuals seeking information only or from newsmedia seeking comment on student press issues.

Once again, the SPLC received more legal questions (777) from publichigh school students than any other group. Questions about censorship toppedthe list of high school concerns (47 percent), followed by questions aboutlibel/privacy law (23 percent) and copyright law (16 percent).

While high school calls were on the rise, the number of requests forlegal help received from public and private college student media droppedslightly. (748 in 1999 compared to 791 in 1998). For the second year ina row, questions regarding public access to records and meetings, includingcampus crime information, (32 percent) topped the number of questions regardingcensorship (26 percent) and libel/privacy law (19 percent).Legal assistance ranged from providing information over the telephoneto drafting opinion letters to making referrals to local attorneys whoare members of the Student Press Law Center’s pro bono Attorney ReferralNetwork.

Calls to the Student Press Law Center came from all 50 states, the Districtof Columbia and five foreign countries. Callers from California (182 calls),New York (173), Texas (106), Missouri (97), Ohio (90), Illinois (80), Virginia(76), Pennsylvania (75), Michigan (73), and Florida (71) topped the list.

Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been the only nationallegal assistance agency and information clearinghouse devoted exclusivelyto protecting and educating the student press about their freedom of expressionand freedom of information rights. The SPLC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.All legal services are provided to the student media free of charge.