By Abigail Allen
High school journalism was created to teach students that they have a voice in their world and to teach them how to use it to make a difference. When there are rules prohibiting them from speaking of their concerns about their community with their peers, it completely contradicts the purpose of teaching the elements and ethics of journalism in the first place.
Indiana student journalism advocates have tried to push bill after bill through to protect student journalists from these conflicts. Most recently, House Bill 1016 failed to pass, with a 45-47 vote, where a 52 vote majority was required.
Having a law like this in place would protect these young voices from being silenced unnecessarily, especially when they have such important things to say. Students won’t write for fear they will be silenced. That is not acceptable. Our state legislature, even our federal legislature, needs this legislation to be passed through some day, because without it, how will today’s big papers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal get experienced passionate employees ready to write and make a difference?
According to uscourts.gov, in the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case, Journalism II students at Hazelwood High School who produced their paper, The Spectrum, wrote two articles that the principal deemed inappropriate to publish due to their topics. The state court ruled in favor of the students, but the Supreme court favored the administration, and the articles were removed.
Many cases like this have happened before, even in the Indianapolis area. According to The Indy Star, a Plainfield High School journalism staff is being punished for the publishing of an issue of a magazine. These students were writing about dating, a topic that would relate to many of their audience members. These students have the right to speak of these topics, guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Luckily, here at WCHS, Principal Tom Zobel and his fellow administrators don’t censor our paper. Student journalists at other schools are not as lucky.
There are many ethics journalists learn to live by before even sitting at a computer to write. That’s why the WCHS curriculum includes a journalism class that is mandatory to take before joining the newspaper staff. This ensures that every writer on the staff knows the rules of journalism and every ethic to write by, so they produce the best quality articles.
Student journalists deserve the voice they are entitled to and taught to speak with. If they continue to be silenced for bringing important matters, controversial or not, to light, then they might as well quit now, because what is the point of writing in a public newspaper when all they are allowed to write about is the latest game or the best restaurants in town? Let journalists write about what really matters. Let them #beheard!