Tuesday, January 23, 2007

free speech rights for students: a student's perspective

Guest-blogger and former CHS student journalist (and present WSU staffer) Christina Watts responds to my thoughts on the proposed legislation that would protect free speech rights for high school journalists. She writes,
I work with Brian Schraum, the WSU student who approached Upthegrove about a need for the bill. I'm glad the legislature is finally looking at the issue of student journalists and their rights.

Just as local newspapers offer residents a place to voice and vent their concerns and critiques, so too does a student-run newspaper give students a place to voice their opinions. This is why the bill being introduced by Upthegrove is important.

Not only do students deserve and need a forum to share their voice about school issues, but they need to know that in sharing their ideas, they won't be penalized. Working on the Outlook, even without being under principal review at the time, we ran into several instances where word of our content was released and we were told to remove it. Too little faith is put in students' ability to determine appropriateness and to handle controversial topics. When student newspapers are censored, students no longer have a place for their concerns to be heard.

It is true that many student newspapers are run through public schools and should therefore contribute to the educational process. This doesn't mean, however, that censoring student newspapers, a practice which has been done across the state as well as across the country, is the best course of action to take. In the past, schools have censored articles about birth control, homosexuality, and drug use, all issues students become familiar with merely by going school. To say these issues weren't relevant or important to students at school was ignorant, and yet the articles were still censored.

Student newspapers, though instituted through the school, are actually run by students. It's not a forum for the school as a whole, but specifically for the students, the primary readership. Thus they, not administration, should be in control of the content.

This bill, which would protect students' rights as journalists, would also at the same time make them accountable and responsible as journalists. Just as a local newspaper can choose what it prints, a student newspaper should be given the same right.

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