Free speech and the kids

Dateline: Thu 16 Aug 2007

First Amendment champion/journalist Gene Policinski has written a troubling piece about the issues faced by student newspapers in recent years.

Here are some excerpts, followed by the link and a few brief comments


"By Gene Policinski

First Amendment Center vice president/executive director


"WASHINGTON, As high school students head back to school this month, far fewer have a chance to participate in real student journalism owing to reduced or eliminated programs, fewer trained professional advisers and quite possibly antagonistic school administrators.

"Journalism educators gathered here Aug. 9 to talk about high school journalism, 20 years after the first Scholastic Journalism Summit. They heard that many of those same problems considered two decades ago remain, and the more recent news is even more chilling.

"The combination of school abandonment of support for free press and speech and court decisions in the last two decades is "chipping away at fundamental freedoms" in a trend "for which I see no end in sight," warned Mark Goodman, who led the Student Press Law Center for much of that time."

Policinski mentions several key cases, including that of the northern Indiana student newspaper formerly advised by journalism teacher Amy Sorrell. The paper was in effect shut down after a student wrote a column defending gay youth and asking gentle questions about how hard it must be to be gay and young. Sorrell and her students decided to research the First Amendment instead of publishing the paper; eventually she was removed from her job and took another position at another high school.

One bright spot on this bleak horizon: former Star reporter Kathy Jesse, who now teaches English at Tech High School, said last year that her students were so galvanized by IPS' decision to require student uniforms that they revived the student newspaper. The school yearbook also made a comeback.

I've always been a fan of underground student press myself, unless the school-sanctioned paper has the sort of swagger and freedom seen in the past at North Central High School (a tribute to the adviser there). But the overall point is that, in years past, there's been a trend to stomp out controversy by administrators and school boards. That's no way to create Americans who can think for themselves, but it certainly guarantees a new bunch of rebels.

And more power to them.


Comments are closed.


or Register


Syndicate Blog