Freedom of the press vanishing from student newspapers across America

Monday, December 09, 2013 by: Mike Bundrant
Tags: student newspapers, censorship, journalism

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(NaturalNews) Most of us don't pay attention to student newspapers. Yet, these publications are where many budding journalists get their feet wet for the first time.

It's exciting to learn to craft a story that your peers will read. Knowing the paper is sure to be read by teachers and school administrators, too, gives student writers a chance to express themselves or even take a public stand on tough issues.

Freedom of the press was once so important in America that Thomas Jefferson said, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost."

Censorship may now be the norm in student newspapers

My awareness of this issue began this week, when I learned that a story I edited for my daughter was censored. In fact, the paper's editor, a teacher at our local high school, struck the most interesting aspect of the story.

Further research has revealed that teenage journalists across America are being censored. Even the names of their publications are being changed upon the whims of those in authority.

The focus of my daughter's story was an interview with an exchange student from Germany. In the course of the dialogue, he mentioned the school here in America seemed more like a prison than a campus.

"In Germany, my school is free and open. You can come and go as you please. Here, the entire school is fenced. There are guards. Your movement is restricted. Parents can't come to the school to visit their kids if they want."

Censored! The above statement was deleted from the story because the teacher said it would cause a "negative reaction."

What remained in the story was the fact that this exchange student enjoyed his host family and had gotten to go to Disneyland. In a stroke of the censor's keyboard, a provocative interview that would inspire controversy and discussion was transformed into vanilla pudding.

Student censorship is such an issue in America that there are student press rights organizations in place to support freedom of the press.

Once such organization, the Student Press Law Center, is headed by Frank LoMonte.

According to LoMonte, schools are also getting more aggressive about driving off teachers who fail to muzzle their students adequately.

"What we see this time of year," he says, "is a worrisome number of teachers being told they won't be back in September. It's almost always in retaliation for student speech that falls within the protection of the First Amendment."

Examples of high school newspaper censorship:

North Douglas High School student newspaper adviser Loradona May's contract was recently not renewed after the student paper ran an editorial critical of the school's dress code.

A paper was abolished by a principal because he didn't like the name (which was 1787 News). In so doing, this principal violated the schools established due process.

In Texas, the student newspaper adviser at Big Spring High School resigned under pressure on May 28 after the principal pulled the last issue of the paper, which included an editorial advocating the legalization of marijuana.

"But our experience is that the vast majority of high school students are too scared to complain and don't understand that they have rights," says LoMonte. "We know that if we take 1,000 complaints a year of censorship, the real number must be 10 times that."

Lomonte claims that the most common form of censorship involves a school administrator who simply strikes an article from a paper because it might make the school look bad.

Four in ten students surveyed say an administrator has asked them not to publish something. And these are from the best student journalism programs.
-Student Press Law Center

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