Attention high school journalists: May 3rd is World Press Freedom Day
For the first time in United States history, World Press Freedom Day will be celebrated on May 3, 2011. Started in 1993 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it’s purpose is to draw attention to the obstacles journalists face in gathering and distributing information necessary for an informed public.
For America, it’s a time to appreciate and reflect on the First Amendment’s promise of “freedom of the press.” We enjoy some of the strongest protections against government intrusion of any country in the world. However, such freedom is not fully applicable to reporters and journalists in middle schools, high schools and colleges.
Since the U. S. Supreme Court decided Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier* in 1988, schools have permission to censor student publications, articles, yearbooks and theatrical productions. In Hazelwood, the principal of the high school in Missouri, pulled two pages from the school year’s final edition of The Spectrum in 1983. Articles covering divorce and teen pregnancy were considered highly personal and inappropriate for younger students.
The student editors challenged the school’s censorship and lost. After five years of litigation, the Supreme Court concluded that “Educators do not offend the First Amendment by exercising editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities so long as their actions are reasonably related to a valid educational purpose.”
Since Hazelwood, a few states have passed laws providing greater freedom to student media (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Oregon and Massachusetts, for example). For more information about student journalism rights, take a look at the Student Press Law Center site.
For more information about this year’s celebration in Washington, D.C. from May 1 to May 3, 2011, click here.
*484 U.S. 260 (1988).