Students deserve freedom of the press

Editorial Staff

We at the Lion’s Tale are very lucky to have journalistic independence and to be free of censorship from our school’s administration. Unfortunately, not all schools in the United States are as lucky. As our school’s eighth graders learn, ever since the landmark Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, public school administrations have had the legal right to censor school newspapers.

At San Gabriel High School in California, the school paper, The Matador, tried to fight their school administration’s attempts to censor an article about the dismissal of a teacher. The administration fired their journalism adviser and shut down their website without prior notice.

This type of thing happens all too frequently in the United States and unfortunately it is perfectly legal.

Recently, however, there has been hope that this will start to change. A number states are enacting legislation to give student journalists more rights. In March, the North Dakota Senate unanimously passed a bill that would allow administrators only in situations of possible libel. This is a significant improvement from the Hazelwood precedent, which only had the vague requirement that censorship be for a pedagogical reason. In practice, that standard allowed administrations to do whatever they want. Legislators also said that they wished to use the momentum to push for increased free speech at private universities and high schools like CESJDS.

In our state, state Senator Jamie Raskin (D- Montgomery) has agreed to introduce a similar bill in the Maryland legislature. The Lion’s Tale fully supports his efforts. Raskin is one of the nation’s foremost experts on the rights of student journalists in the country, and we could not have asked for a better representative of student journalists in our state Senate.

The rights of students to publish a newspaper without censorship by the school is essential. Just like the national media has a role to play in educating the public, so too do student newspapers provide important information to their readers. Just as The Washington Post is the watchdog of the federal government, so are student publications the watchdogs of the school.

We are lucky to attend a private school with a paper that is granted independence from the administration. But not all private school newspapers have this privilege. We encourage Maryland legislators to look out for the rights of private school journalists as well as public school journalists. We strongly encourage Sen. Raskin and his colleagues to pursue rules and regulations that protect all student journalists.