Student Journalists Fight for Their Right to Free Speech

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Some high school journalists feel they’re not being permitted to write about controversial issues or touchy topics about their school. That’s why one lawmaker is taking action proposing a bill to protect students from censorship.

“I’ve heard stories about high school principals only pulling stories from newspapers,” says Hope Johnson, a student journalist.

She asked lawmakers to protect her and other students who write for school newspapers in the state. Currently, school leaders can restrict the publication of a story in a student-run newspaper.

Johnson believes the First Amendment rights of student journalists are being abused. “[The administration can censor] pages of newspapers if they feel that the content is touchy or, even worse, if it puts them in a bad light.”

However, Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39th district) says students should be able to ask questions, and has sponsored a bill called the Rights of Student Journalists Act.

“We want our young people to think critically and to engage in the world and that way, so to tell them that, well, you know, if you write something that’s a little too mean to us, we’re not going to let you do it,” he says.

Under if the bill passes, “We can’t publish anything with malicious intent that would harm a student or teacher or invade privacy, but we can be critical of decisions of our administration,” says Johnson.

Johnson says, even though her articles were published, she’s concerned for free speech.

“We don’t want to put our opinion in our articles and try to persuade one person one way or another. We want to put the story together and let the reader or audience make their decision about the information,” she says.

Nine other states have enacted similar laws. The bill passed unanimously in the House 114-0 and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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