SPLC launches First Amendment Fund

This summer, the Student Press Law Center will launchthe First Amendment Fund to protect the rights of student journalists.

“Anyone who works with students recognizes thatthey frequently have to fight for their right to cover important issues,”says Mary Arnold Hemlinger, youth journalism and diversity consultant forthe Newspaper Association of American Foundation and chair of the SPLC’sboard of directors. “The SPLC not only provides legal advice to studentswhose rights are threatened, but also works to instill in all studentsan enthusiasm for the principle of free expression.”

The goal of the First Amendment Fund is to raise$415,000 in 2001 for proactive efforts to protect student rights. Giftsto the First Amendment Fund will support several new initiatives as wellas current SPLC programs and services.

“Oftentimes, advisers find themselves caught betweenstudents and the administration,” explains David Adams, Director of StudentPublications at Indiana University in Bloomington and treasurer of theSPLC’s board of directors. “The Fund is a wonderful opportunity for themto show support for an organization that is working to educate administrators,school board members and the general public about student rights. At thesame time, the Center’s workshops and materials teach students to be responsiblejournalists and how to avert a crisis.”

The First Amendment Fund represents the firstmajor resource development undertaking for the SPLC, according to MarkGoodman, the Centerís executive director.

“While creating something new is always challenging,it is essential that we succeed,” Goodman says. “The SPLC has done muchwith limited resources for over 25 years, but the years ahead will be criticalones. The First Amendment Fund is the best possible way to ensure the Centercan continue to champion the work of student journalists and their advisers.”

Court decisions have eroded high school students’free-press rights, and there is always the threat of similar rulings affectingcollege publications, Adams points out. Incidents of school violence haveadded to administrators’ and parents’ fears, often leading to increasedrestrictions on student expression. And while the Internet has createdopportunities for students to research and express their opinions, he adds,it has also created disagreement among adults about what students can andcannot do online.

“The First Amendment Fund will provide the fundsSPLC needs to continue improving services for student journalists and advisersof school-sponsored activities,” says Goodman. “At the same time, the Fundwill allow the Center to increase its outreach to all students, includingthose who publish alternative papers, create issue-oriented Web sites ordistribute leaflets.

“Support for the concept of free expression mustbe ongoing and strong in order to maintain a national climate of respectfor First Amendment freedoms,” explains Goodman. “The First Amendment Fundwill ensure the SPLC can continue expanding our important work well intothe future.”