Recently, there have been increased cases of student articles being removed from school newspapers due to “inappropriate” or “unapproved” content. Although journalists believe that it is their duty to expose the unknown to the public, regardless of who or what the issue may concern, students are constantly restricted of their rights to freedom of speech, expression, and opinion.
“For my school, I think the administration gives our newspaper great autonomy, which I’m grateful for,” said Robert Mack, a senior at a Palos Verdes High School. “In general, however, there is a culture of self-censorship in journalism and public opinion, which I find disturbing.”
In 2015 at Harrisonville High School, a group of student journalists were threatened to face disciplinary actions if they published an article without the principal’s permission. Although the staff wanted to report on the recent resignation of the district’s superintendent, they were told that publication was not allowed before approval.
“What I didn’t want was for any of us to get into trouble for something that was written inaccurately,” said Principal Campbell. “There are just no facts in student writing.”
Although current censorship laws vary for each region, student journalists in general do not have the same rights as professionals. As a result, the supervisors of schools usually have the freedom to censor all student media. While Campbell’s rights were acknowledged, worries about the students’ constitutional rights only increased.
“I personally don’t get offended by articles unless they’re extremely offensive,” said Mary Bernadett, a sophomore at a Palos Verdes high school. “It’s unfair for schools to limit the voice of these student journalists since they have the right to express their thoughts. Schools should focus less on their reputation and more on the valuable contributions the writers may have.”
While censorship itself is unjust and runs contrary to the aim of journalism and education, the complications of the controversy cannot easily be solved. The newspaper represents the school, and restrictions should be placed on the articles that may offend a large crowd, but the strict policies used to dealt with student articles emphasizes only on the unfair violation of rights, rather than protection of the students. Although the welfare of students is important, the acceptance of individual ideas is just as essential.
“It’s one thing for them to read it, but it’s another thing for them to completely change what we’re trying to say,” said Mack.