Under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, we are granted five freedoms, including the freedoms of speech and press. However, these freedoms don’t come without restrictions for student journalists.
Student newspapers across the country are censored by principals, school boards and superintendents for stories that may be deemed “controversial.” These stories center around topics like teen pregnancy, suicide and abortion, among the most popular.
One Indiana House bill made strides in the Indiana Statehouse earlier this year to offer more protections for student journalists. In its original form, House Bill 1130 would have prohibited public schools and school corporations from disciplining student journalists for exercising their freedoms of speech and press in school publications.
When the legislation reached the Indiana Senate, though, the bill saw significant changes. These included changing the grades the protections would affect to only 9th through 12th grades and prohibiting students from controlling what was advertised in the publication.
However, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, killed the bill last week after learning the Indiana Department of Education was concerned with the bill’s language, which said protections would not be put in place if school administrators could prove the content to be “gratuitously profane.”
But student journalists don’t have to lose hope, yet. The bill’s language could potentially be placed in another House education bill.
Legislation aside, it’s important for students to have control over the content they publish. They are responsible for reporting on events and situations. By covering more controversial topics and hard-news, a gateway for more learning opportunities is opened to student journalists.
Students should be trusted by their administration to provide fair, accurate coverage to any and all topics that may affect their audience. High school is supposed to prepare students for the real world, but how can it do that when newspapers are censored? This censorship completely dishonors professional journalism.
If a student reported on teen pregnancy — something becoming more prevalent in high schools — the reporter could provide students with a variety of resources to turn to if they are searching for help.
If a student wrote about mental illness or suicide awareness, simply because people in their school are affected by it, they could provide important information about how to get help and who to reach out to.
Writing about controversial issues does not have to be a big deal. These stories can be informative and educational.
Administrations need to understand the school newspaper is not a PR attempt or marketing tool. It is a way of informing the public of important issues surrounding the community. These publications teach student journalists how to be more efficient reporters. By reporting on real issues that matter, they get a feel for how journalism outside of a school campus works.
Student journalists deserve the right to report without fear of administrators censoring their work.
OUR POSITION: The staff believes all student journalists should have the freedom to write what they choose.
The opinions, beliefs and view points expressed by the various authors in the opinion section do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the entire The Franklin staff. Opinion editor Christina Ramey moderates the board and its members, including Brittney Corum, Matt Thomas and Ashley Steeb. Leigh Durphey, the executive editor, sits on the board. If you have an issue you would like the board to cover, email firstname.lastname@example.org.