Students want to be heard on the social and political issues, including issues of local school policy, directly affecting their lives. Their unique perspective is important for adult policymakers to hear and respect. With the erosion of mainstream news media coverage, “embedded” student journalists are often the public’s only way knowing when schools are dirty, dangerous or ineffective. Too often, authority figures bent on P.R. image control suppress candid journalism that “makes the school look bad.”
What we believe
Students learn journalism best under a light touch of guidance from a well-trained adviser, not the heavy hand of government “spin control.” Every K-12 student should have the benefit of a sensible free-expression policy modeled on the Supreme Court’s Tinker standard, protecting the right to engage in lawful, non-disruptive speech. Educators must be protected against retaliation for what their students say or write, and schools’ authority over off-campus online speech must be strictly limited to prevent censorship from following students home.
Read former SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte’s 2013 commentary piece for Education Week on the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier and the damage it has done to students’ First Amendment rights.
What we’re doing about it
- We offer model publications policies striking a reasonable balance between authority and autonomy, and protecting the freedom to discuss issues of public concern.
- We audit the compliance of school districts with state free-expression laws and publicize the results.
- We provide resources and tutorials for students who want to advocate for New Voices reforms in their states.
How you can help
- Review your school or college policies to make sure they’re compliant with the First Amendment and state free-expression statutes, and work to improve those that aren’t.
- Join the campaign to “Cure Hazelwood” by helping policymakers understand the cancerous effects of censorship on learning.
- Publicize the misuse of authority to prevent students from speaking or to punish them for what they say, including punishment for off-campus speech on social media.