Nov. 2, 2015  

Board Votes to Support High School Journalists

SPLC logoIn October, the SPJ Florida Pro board voted unanimously to support measures in expanding the free speech rights of student journalists.

The Student Press Law Center’s (SPLC) efforts with their Cure Hazelwood campaign has brought to light the extensive limitations of high school journalists.

“When we learned how disadvantaged high school journalists are because of their restrictions, we were appalled,” said SPJ Florida Pro President Dori Zinn. “We’re actively working with the SPLC to make something work for Florida.”

The campaign, “Cure Hazelwood,” comes from the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case in 1988, where a principal censored a student newspaper’s two stories about divorce and pregnancy because he believed it was inappropriate for younger students. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that the school did have some sort of control over the content in the paper. Because the paper was “sponsored” by the school, the school had enough control over the paper to make overturn editorial decisions made by the students. For decades, this law has drastically limited the rights and voices of high school student journalists.

According to the SPLC, seven states have passed laws protecting the free speech rights of high school journalists and five have ongoing campaigns right now. Already this year, North Dakota unanimously passed and signed into law the John Wall New Voices Act, which ensures free speech rights for public high school and college students in the state. With these updated guidelines, students have the protections they deserve as journalists to speak and write freely, even if the media outlet is financially supported by the school. According to the law, “A school district may not authorize any prior restraint of any school-sponsored media,” aside from libel, slander, invasion of privacy, or a violation of state or federal law.

SPJ Florida hopes to continue the trend that North Dakota has started by obtaining and maintaining First Amendment rights for student journalists across the state.

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