Student Press Freedom Day — Jan. 29, 2020

Student Press Freedom Day is Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. What are YOU doing to celebrate? Now’s the time to start making plans! Make sure to use #StudentPressFreedom on social media.

What is Student Press Freedom Day?

Student Press Freedom Day is a national day of action when we celebrate the contributions of student journalists and highlight the need to support their independence without censorship or threat to their advisers. We mark the anniversary of the Hazelwood decision, and call upon elected officials to bring sunlight back to student journalism.

Why do we need Student Press Freedom Day?

For more than three decades, 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 community.

The legacy of the 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court decision is a shameful one. Students across the country are demanding reform at the state level. 

Fourteen states have enacted “New Voices” legislation to protect the First Amendment press rights of student journalists and prevent against their advisers and teachers. Grassroots nonpartisan coalitions powered by students and other volunteers have taken root in many other states.

A record number of states introduced New Voices legislation in 2019. Yet, too often legislators and the public seem to misunderstand the important role student journalists play in the community and the value of your independent reporting.

So, let’s show them.

Theme: This Is What Student Press Freedom Looks Like

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the role of student journalists (breaking national stories in Arizona or grappling with difficult ethical issues at Northwestern). It’s important for everyone to understand the impact of student journalists, the hard work journalists and advisers do, and the challenges you face.  

This year’s theme for Student Press Freedom Day is “This is What Student Press Freedom Looks Like”  Help the world understand the important work you do, the blood, sweat and tears that go into your work, and let SPLC help amplify your message. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started. We encourage you to build on these, and get creative with ideas of your own:

  • See if you have a New Voices grassroots campaign in your state and coordinate activities with it. Or, if you are one of 14 states with a New Voices law, create an activity that celebrates and calls attention to it.
  • Write an op-ed for your local community news organization, or pen an editorial for your own publication.
  • Create a “Day in the Life (or week)” video following student journalists and showing how they create their work
  • Create a photo essay documenting what it takes to produce your media
  • Discuss a story you produced that was important to your community and why
  • Make a short video explaining your challenges and successes
  • Hold an event at your school to discuss press freedom and the First Amendment
  • Print t-shirts or make bracelets or create flyers or other tools to raise visibility and awareness of #studentpressfreedom
  • Invite your state legislators to visit your classroom or newsroom
  • Get an SPLC expert to join you as part of the Virtual Speakers Bureau to educate your newsroom/classroom/community about student press freedom

Student Press Freedom Day Grants

If you want to do even more, let us help. The Student Press Law Center has established grants of up to $300 to help you hold public events or campaigns on or around Student Press Freedom Day.

What does this look like to you? You may need coordinated t-shirts, stickers, or equipment rental for a rally or news conference, or stationary and stamps for a coordinated letter writing campaign. Maybe you need a way to display samples of your work in a public place. Use your imagination, and let us help you make it a reality! The only criteria is that it must be a public event or campaign that can be used to raise awareness about student press freedom.

Note: While advocating around specific New Voices legislation may be an incidental part of this event, it should not be the main focus. Funds also cannot be used solely for paid media, e.g. promoted Tweets and Facebook ads.

What we’ll need from you is some sort of public presence – pictures, news clippings, a write up, etc. – for us to share electronically on Student Press Freedom Day or as close as possible thereafter. After the event, we’ll also need you to fill out this report and send us all your receipts, so you can be reimbursed.

To Apply

Fill out the application at https://forms.gle/8WjD4PhqBiQVnfz7A

Important Things to Know:

Applications are considered on a rolling basis while funding lasts, but applications must be submitted no later than January 9. Applications will be reviewed and you will receive a response within three business days from submission. Reports must be filed and receipts submitted electronically to hdavis@splc.org by February 5, 2020.

Resources

Questions?

Email New Voices Advocacy And Campaign Organizer Hillary Davis at hdavis@splc.org for help. Good luck, and get creative!