The ‘New Voices’ crusade

Student Press Freedom Day celebrated today

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Student Press Law Center

When reporting controversial issues, student journalists are still denied their full first amendment rights.

Catherine Diel, Social Media Manager

Student journalists all over the US are fighting for their rights.

Today  commemorates Student Press Freedom Day, which, according to Student Press Law Center, “…is a national day of action when we celebrate the contributions of student journalists and highlight the need to support their independence without censorship or threat to their advisers.”

The New Voices Laws, under debate in 2021, would lessen the power of the Hazelwood case, which allows school administration to censor content they deem contradict community norms. The movement, however, started with student press freedom bills being filed in the 2017 and 2019 Legislative sessions. These were times of hope for student reporters- there would be a law protecting them. The bills did not become law. But hope is not gone yet. The New Voices laws have been passed in fourteen states, not including Texas. However, the New Voices of Texas has a slate of officers working towards the 2021 legislative session. 

When the 2021 legislative session begins, it is necessary that the New Voices laws are passed.

Censorship is becoming the norm in student journalists’ minds, when it is not true to adult journalists. These writers will grow to think they cannot inform consumers of what is important because the topic is too heavy or political. Freedom of the press is a first amendment right. Students should not lose their rights because they go to school. Telling a young reporter they can not release their work because of the issues covered violates that right.

Not only does censorship prevent student journalists from sharing their work, but it prevents readers from seeing it. Censoring controversial topics holds back students’ knowledge and understanding of said topics. Teens are on their way to adulthood and when they get there, they will be unprepared for the real-world issues they are expected to help solve. If school boards are not allowing subjects to be shared because they are at issue, they are withholding information from their students. Schools are supposed to prepare young adults, ready them to enter the world, but they are denying them the resources that will most help them.

At the moment, students are unaware of what is okay to write versus what is not. Most faculty do not know either. Until there is a guide telling them exactly what they can and cannot write, nobody will be comfortable.

School boards want to protect their reputation. They censor work to make sure it will not reflect badly on them. They are scared. But when New Voices laws are passed, they will no longer have to worry about negative reflections or lawsuits against them.

Texas needs to make a change. Students should know their rights. They should know the problems the world is facing. The rules must be clarified.

The 2021 legislative session is when these problems can be resolved. It is necessary the New Voices laws are implemented.

This opinion column was updated from its original version published Oct. 24, 2019. 

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