The proverbial presses of student journalism are rolling once again at The Q-Review, the student newspaper at Quincy High School in Quincy, Illinois, which posted its first edition online on February 1, after a four-year silence.
The newspaper’s faculty adviser, Maranda Amons, told the paper that having the newspaper published online “allows us to get the information out faster and it also allows us to update the information more frequently.”
Staff writer Bailey Gasparovic reports in the first edition that working on the paper, especially when combined with journalism classes at the high school, will serve as a way for students to communicate with the community as well as other students. “There are many things that go on in the school that people don’t know about,” she writes. It will also allow students to explore any career interest they may have in journalism.
“We always try to extend career opportunities for students,” the paper quoted Danielle Arnold, the school’s principal, as saying. “We want to provide an experience.”
Illinois passed a new law in its last legislative session, as did Maryland, that gives students a chance to express themselves more freely in student newspapers.
In an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, bemoans the state of civics education in the US, saying we should encourage students to exercise their rights more freely, rather than less, in a democracy. We shouldn’t censor their speech, even in written form, he says.
“Universal access to the Internet and social media have made censorship not just educationally unsound, but ineffectual and counterproductive,” he writes. “When the principal of a Chicago high school recently forbade students from writing about their dissatisfaction with changing the start time of the school day, the author simply took the article to an off-campus blog—where it received vastly more attention.
“The explosion of social media has made it more urgent than ever for students to learn the values uniquely conveyed in the newsroom: balance, verification, accountability, ethics. Journalism is a solution for schools, and it’s time to stop treating it as a problem.”
Laws like Illinois’s seek to undo or at least clarify what many school districts have construed as a blank check to censor student speech, given to them, they think, in the case of Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier. In that 1988 landmark case, the Supreme Court upheld the right of school administrators to exercise editorial control over school newspapers as long as their actions are reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns and not to the viewpoint expressed.