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Student Journalists Rally for Free Speech on #StudentPressFreedomDay

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Student Journalists Rally for Free Speech on #StudentPressFreedomDay

John Noonan

John Noonan

John Noonan

Kimberly Wilson, Opinion Editor

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Student journalists all over the country will advocate for freedom of the press on Jan. 30 in recognition of Student Press Freedom Day. A student journalist’s priority is to report on issues important to them and their peers. Administrative attempts to censor the student perspective are unacceptable. Students have a right to express their viewpoints regardless of whether or not school authorities or anybody else agrees with them.

According to The Student Press Law Center’s website, the student-run, bipartisan ‘New Voices’ movement was created to preserve the rights of student journalists. Fourteen states, including Illinois, have enacted ‘New Voices’ laws to aid in the prevention of student censorship.

The landmark 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court ruling gave school administrators more power over what student journalists are allowed to publish. The court decided the school newspaper could not be characterized as a public forum and, as such, “school officials may impose reasonable restrictions on the speech of students, teachers, and other members of the school community.”

The far-reaching implications this court ruling has had must be critiqued. We are in a time when bastion news organizations are being discredited by some of the most powerful people in society. Student journalists cannot stay silent when such people attempt to silence our voices. Our viewpoints are just as important as anyone else’s.

College is a place where students should be encouraged to consider opinions and experiences that might differ from their own. Listening to and appreciating different viewpoints is an integral part of developing effective critical thinking skills and preparing college students to lead impactful lives.

It is important for schools to espouse an environment where students can express their opinions without reprimand. Creating an environment where only certain opinions are acceptable can have dire consequences for everyone involved. It can discourage students from speaking their minds as well as fuel bigotry and hate, things that should have no place in educational institutions.  

By dictating to students what they can and can’t say, schools promote complacency and undermine the courage young people need to challenge the failings in our world that preceding generations will leave them to fix. Letting students speak their minds develops leadership qualities. The news reminds us every day how much we need more great leaders.  

 We musn’t be content to live in a bubble where we only engage with opinions we like. We need to hear opinions that will challenge us to think about life in new ways, even if we never come around to agreeing with them. This is vital to increasing our knowledge as college students and therefore should not be suppressed by the powers that be.

Furthermore, it is not a student journalist’s duty to market an educational institution or create what the administration believes to be a positive image for the school. We are here to deliver the student point of view on important issues, and should be allowed to do this under the constitutional right to freedom of the press.

#StudentPressFreedomDay is a reminder that we will not and must not relinquish our basic freedoms. Students have voices waiting to be heard and student journalists will continue to advocate valiantly for the right to tell our stories.

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Student Journalists Rally for Free Speech on #StudentPressFreedomDay