New research finds female high school journalists bear the burden of censorship

Today at a SXSWedu panel, researchers from the University of Kansas released the results of a survey about the prevalence of censorship in high school media.

The team, led by Peter Bobkowski and Genelle Belmas, questioned 461 high school student journalists. Through this research, a pattern emerged in which young women reported experiencing censorship – either overtly by a school official or self-imposed – more often than young men.

“School administrators and teachers appear more likely to prevent girls from covering the issues they see as important in the student media than they are to prevent boys from doing so,” said Bobkowski. “Instead of empowering girls and building up their confidence, journalism classrooms appear to be one more setting where girls’ voices are disproportionately devalued and muted.”

     Have you been told by a school employee not to discuss a topic or issue in your student media- (1)1

   Have you been told by a school employee not to discuss a topic or issue in your student media- (2)  

This research, conducted in partnership with the Student Press Law Center for its “Active Voice” initiative, lent credence to a growing body of anecdotal evidence from the makeup of calls to the SPLC’s attorney helpline: the girl from Arkansas forbidden from writing about LGBT rights, to the Florida girl prevented from informing her classmates about a statewide medical-marijuana referendum, the girls in Michigan ordered not to discuss their struggles with clinical depression, the girl in Tennessee prevented from publishing a column crying out for the acceptance of atheists in a community of Christian fundamentalists.

“Censorship uniquely and differentially impacts girls,” said SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte. “We know that teenage years are a crucial development time at which young women are prone to self-doubt and insecurity, and when authority figures devalue their voices, it feeds that uncertainty at a time when we should be building confidence and courage.”

To encourage young female voices, the SPLC has launched Active Voice. Active Voice works to make the voices of women and girls heard in the media through advocacy campaigns and by training women and girls to use media to advance the state of their own rights, safely and without fear of reprisal. SPLC board member Nabiha Syed said about the project, “It’s absolutely necessary that we understand and identify solutions for censorship, especially the kind that happens at a critical young age.”

To read the press release including detailed survey results, click here.

To stay updated on Active Voice, visit “Get Active!”