NEWS ADVISORY: Student Press Freedom Day

Diana Mitsu Klos, director of engagement
(202) 728-7267/ 

NEWS ADVISORY for Jan. 29, 2020 events

Student Press Freedom Day celebrates the critical role of student media while pointing out the challenges they face

With Jan. 29 events in Washington, D.C. and across the country, Student Press Freedom Day is a national day of action to recognize the crucial work of student journalists and highlight the need to support their independence without censorship or threats to their advisers.

Created in 2018 by the Student Press Law Center to note the 30th anniversary of the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier U.S. Supreme Court decision which greatly expanded the ability of school officials to censor student work, Student Press Freedom Day puts a national spotlight on a First Amendment challenge that has festered for more than three decades.

“The legacy of the 1988 Hazelwood decision is a shameful one. Far too many student journalists have been censored by image-conscious school administrators, or intimidated to self-censor or not report on “controversial” topics that matter to their peers and communities. It is important that we stand up nationally to say ‘No more!’ Student journalists play increasingly important roles in the media ecosystem and they cover stories vitally important to their peers and communities. At this time when student voices are leading on issues of national and global importance like climate change and gun violence, it is critically important that student journalists are able to freely report on issues of importance to the community,” said SPLC Executive Director Hadar Harris.

A few highlights of the Jan. 29, 2020 Student Press Freedom Day:

  • In Washington, D.C, the SPLC, in partnership with the National Archives Foundation, is hosting a panel of distinguished student journalists to discuss “New Visions of the Future of Press Freedom” from noon to 1:30 p.m. Student journalists have been thrust into the middle of the press freedom debates as they are filling gaps in news deserts and, with their peers, serving as watchdogs on key civic issues of our time. They are also coming of age at a time when press freedom is under threat and the role of the media is under intense scrutiny. Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist Joie Chen will be moderating the roundtable discussion with Maya Goldman, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Michigan Daily; Neha Madhira, a reporter at The Daily Texan and former editor-in-chief of  Eagle Nation Online at Prosper (Texas) High School; Kristine Guillaime, outgoing editor-in-chief of The Harvard Crimson; and Joe Severino, former news editor at The Daily Athenaeum at West Virginia University graduate whom earlier this month joined the Charleston Gazette-Mail. David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, will open the event. Details here.

  • From panel discussions with investigative journalists and lawyers in Indiana or Kentucky, to tabling with stickers and materials about student press rights in New York and Florida, to the creation of a video journal about a day in the life of a newsroom in Michigan or Nebraska, students across the country are planning a range of events to mark Student Press Freedom Day.

  • Building on last year’s experience, when nearly 70 student news outlets published op-eds and articles about student press freedom, the SPLC is encouraging student journalists to tell their stories and work off of this year’s theme, “This is What Student Press Freedom Looks Like.”  They are encouraged to use the hashtag #StudentPressFreedom on social media.
  • SPLC is encouraging professional journalists to do the same with the #StudentPressFreedom hashtag, sharing how they fought against censorship back in college or high school, or the most valuable thing they learned as student journalists.

In addition, as many state legislatures start their sessions around the time of Student Press Freedom Day, student-powered, nonpartisan and civic-minded First Amendment advocates are organizing and demanding reform at the state level to defend the basic rights of student journalists and to counter the insidious impact of the Hazelwood decision. 

Fourteen states have enacted “New Voices” legislation to protect the First Amendment press rights of student journalists and prevent retaliation against their advisers and teachers. Grassroots coalitions have taken root in other states to move legislation forward across the country. Student Press Freedom Day provides an opportunity for those advocates to tell the important story of the need to support free press rights for student journalists.

The Student Press Law Center (, @splc) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working at the intersection of law, journalism and education to promote, support and champion the rights of student journalists and their advisers at the high school and college levels. The SPLC provides information, training and legal assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.