Now is the time for New Voices

It’s time to cure Hazelwood.

In 1988, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-3 ruling that hurt student journalism publications everywhere. The landmark Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier decision determined that school administrators could exercise prior restraint if a school can present a reasonable educational justification for its censorship. This decision stifles high school and middle school publications across the nation.

In an effort to combat this decision, the New Voices Campaign was created by those who want to protect scholastic journalism. It pushes for legislation that protects student journalists’ freedom of press and freedom of speech rights. Currently, 10 states have passed legislation. The first state to pass a New Voices law was North Dakota in 2015. The most recent state to pass a law was Illinois in July of last year. In 16 states, legislation is in the works.

The New Voices legislation is extremely important because it protects students from prior review and censorship. Student journalists cannot learn to be responsible, professional journalists if their work must always be reviewed by their administrators. Not only does this slow down the process of publishing content, but it hinders students from being able to learn the responsibilities of being a journalist. Especially at a time when fake news and alternative facts are at the height of attention, it is important than ever to have well-educated journalists.

Programs that are given the freedom of press by their administrators function at a higher level than those that do not. I am currently in a fellowship where I am interviewing advisers from schools that are able to operate with freedom of the press, and these advisers emphasize the importance of this right. Their students are given the opportunity to prove themselves by stepping up to the task of publishing factual, ethical content.

I was fortunate enough to have freedom of speech and freedom of press at my high school (Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri), so I was able to write about subjects such as the controversial integration of the Normandy School District into the Francis Howell School District, recreational usage of marijuana and students with special needs. Tackling these subjects meant I had to be professional about the issues and take on the responsibility of addressing any concerns about the topics. I grew a lot by participating in my high school journalism program and because I had these opportunities, I want to be sure that other students have these same learning experiences.

If you would like more information about the New Voices Campaigns going on in Indiana, there is an excellent opinion from the Indy Star here. If you would like to read more about efforts being made throughout the nation, you can read about them here, here and here.