Mich. student wins Courage in Student Journalism Award for fighting censorship


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Katherine Dean, former managing editor of the Arrow, the student newspaper at Utica HighSchool in Utica, Mich., received the 2003 Courage in Student Journalism Award on Saturday for her commitment to student press freedom.

The Student Press Law Center, the Newseum and the National Scholastic Press Association presented the award to Dean at the NSPA/Journalism Education Association fall convention. The annual award recognizes a student journalist who has fought to uphold the freedom of the student press despite resistance or difficult circumstances.

Dean’s struggle began in March 2002 when she co-wrote an article about a lawsuit filed by local residents who alleged that diesel fumes from idling school buses parked at the Utica Community School’s garage was detrimental to their health. One of the plaintiffs alleged the fumes caused him to develop cancer. Utica school officials withheld the article on March 7, 2002, one day before it was scheduled for publication. Since then, Dean and the newspaper staff have fought school officials over the censorship.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dean on April 4, 2003, alleging that school officials violated Dean’s First Amendment rights because the article might “embarrass school officials.” The lawsuit is pending in federal district court. After it was censored by the school, Dean’s article appeared in the local Macomb Daily newspaper with an editorial criticizing the school. Several other Michigan newspapers and television stations reported on Dean’s struggle.

“Katy Dean’s struggle is an example to journalists everywhere,” said Mark Goodman, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “She has stood up to the pressure from her school because she put the health and safety of her readers first.”

Dean received $5,000 from the Newseum for winning the award.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Dean said. “My case has helped me realize that the First Amendment is not some far-off ideal that was fought for hundreds of years ago, but a significant right that we need to fight for everyday.”


The Courage in Journalism Award is sponsored by the Student Press Law Center, the Newseum and the National Scholastic Press Association. Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been the only national organization exclusively devoted to providing free legal advice and assistance to student journalists and advisers and serving as an advocate for their free press and freedom of information rights. The Newseum, the interactive museum of news planned for Washington, D.C., is funded by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people. Founded in 1921, the National Scholastic Press Association and its college division, the Associated Collegiate Press, provide rating services and critical analyses for print and electronic student news media and sponsor the largest annual national conventions for student journalists and their advisers. For additional information contact: Mark Goodman, Executive Director, Student Press Law Center at (703) 807-1904

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