Student press freedom: an assault on youth or protection of authority?


You can help us report on the freedom of the student press at universities in the United States. A bill intended to protect student journalists was dropped in Indiana this week. Elsewhere, students claim university newspapers are being censored.

A bill to preserve press freedom of student journalists in Indiana failed to pass in the Indiana House of Representatives on February 5, according to the Indianapolis Star.

The New Voices bill would have prohibited schools from limiting student’s rights to free press and speech, prevent schools from censoring content and disciplining students for content they produce.

According to the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit organization that helps protect students’ press freedom,  student journalism is often the only way misconduct in schools can be made public.

Legal protections for student journalists have been enacted in Illinois (2008), Maryland (2016) and North Dakota (2015), with bills pending in 11 states, according to SPLC’s former executive director, Frank Lomonte, who campaigns for legal protections for student journalists.

With your input and through interviews, we want to report on freedoms and limitations of student press.

Questions we’d like to explore include:

  • What are the limits to free speech and free press in schools and universities?
  • Which U.S. schools already have press freedom rules?
  • What relevant events concerning press freedoms for students are important to the story?
  • Are U.S. educational institutions breaching the First Amendment?
  • Is campus news at American universities being censored?
  • Are universities and schools censoring student publications nationally with the intent of hiding misconduct?
  • Do universities without press freedom laws suffer from control and censorship of content by the institution?
  • Is this a global issue? What other countries have problems with student press freedom?

Key facts central to the story:

  • Student journalists say they’re being censored.
  • The New Voices bill that would protect student press freedoms in Indiana fell short of enough votes to pass to the Senate on February 5.
  • The Indianapolis Star ran a story in January on a case of high school censorship and how the New Voices bill could have prevented it.
  • Hundreds of student newspapers were reported missing on February 1 at a Kansas community college, with fears the current issue was being censored.
  • The Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District case from 1969 that defined the constitutional rights of students in U.S. public schools. It is still used today to determine whether a school’s disciplinary actions violate students’ First Amendment rights.
  • An issue of the student newspaper at Flushing High School in New York City that featured a criticism of teaching at the school was censored (NY Post).
  • Censorship of college newspapers began increasing in the 2000s, according to The Atlantic.

Interviews:

  • Student Press Law Center, a legal assistance agency for student journalists in the U.S.
  • Attorney Frank D. LoMonte, professor of media law at the University of Florida, where he runs the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information. Was executive director of the Student Press Law Center
  • Dr. Agnes Callamard, Director, Global Freedom of Expression and Information, at Columbia Uni
  • FIRE, First Amendment non-profit organization and free speech watchdog
  • Student journalists from Plainfield High School, who advocated for Indiana’s New Voices bill
  • Student journalists from other schools in the United States who have had struggles with press freedom
  • Active Voice, a female-focused grassroots group campaigning for student press freedom
  • Mark Goodman, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is an expert in the role of high school student journalism in preparing journalists and citizens, the practice of press freedom in American schools and freedom of information issues involving schools and colleges
  • Indiana High School Press Association
  • Are you a student who has experienced limitations to your press freedom?

What or who would you add to this story? Use EDIT to add to directly or tell us in TALK

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    This idea was suggested by WikiTribune community member Mark Wasson.

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