Why we must shine a light on student censorship

Alex Brown, editor in chief

Fake news. Alternative facts. You know you’re going to have an interesting year when the newly elected president is notorious for attacking your career field. What attacks seemed so unbelievable last year are now the new norm for journalists, both professional and student. The recent turn against journalists has created a larger conversation about the place of the press in this day and age. While healthy discussion can be productive, we must be careful to avoid and put a spotlight on the one thing equally harmful to reporters and readers: censorship.

Many view censorship as a far off aspect of dystopian societies, only allowed when society itself has crumbled. However, censorship is alive today and plaguing the lives and careers of those affected. Harder to censor due to the larger audience, professional journalism sees discreet signs of the bigger issue. Where we must be aware of blatant censorship is our schools. Fortunately, California has laws in place protecting our First Amendment rights, but the majority of states still grant permission to schools to monitor and prevent student writing.

This obvious infringement of rights changes the future of journalism and sends unprepared students into the journalism field with no concept of what it’s like to write freely. Some schools prevent any mention of political issues, some prevent opinions different from the majority of the readers and many prevent any articles with something negative to say about the school or community. While public image is important, teaching students to fight for what is right should always prevail. Giving students their right to investigate and share any controversial issues is not only beneficial when looking at the lessons taught, but substantial discoveries have been made by students. High schoolers in Kansas uncovered the fake credentials made up by their newly hired principal, and effectively had her position at the school terminated. With censorship policies in place, these students would have been stuck with information unable to be used, a detriment to the entire school.

While there are organizations, such as New Voices U.S, in existence which band together with students to fight against the limitations faced by people all over the country, they can’t meet their goals without the support of everyone. New Voices aims to create legislation which better protects students’ first amendment rights, yet no legislation can be passed without knowledge and support of that topic. That is why it is dire we educate those unaware of the detriments of censorship. We can not let the fragile reputations of others dictate the truth that we spread. The goal of journalism is to spread our truth, and without awareness and advocacy we are destined to be a society left in the dark.

Should schools have a say over what students publish?

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