After Conor Spahr, the news editor of the Herriman High School newspaper in Utah, published an article exposing that the disappearance of a teacher was due to inappropriate texting with a minor, the school administration shut down the newspaper and changed the logins of the website and social media. There have been other cases where schools have censored students’ publications and have even fired the adviser after covering sensitive topics like racism, school shootings, political opinions, sexual harassment, or issues within the schools.
School administration shouldn’t be allowed to end journalism programs and/or fire the advisers if they publish controversial topics.
The first amendment of the constitution protects freedom of the press, but sometimes it’s not that simple. The court case Hazel School District V. Kuhlmeier decided that school administrators were allowed to censor student publications for any reason. This is not entirely a bad thing because it is important for the news staff to be school appropriate and follow the rules of the school, but it can be dangerous. This can lead to student journalists losing all their press rights because schools can shut down the journalism program for being a little controversial.
This could compare to the dictatorship governments who censor all media. That is not what America is, so the government should do more to protect student rights and name it unconstitutional to stop the programs.
School administrators claim that high school prepares students for the “real world” and encourages them to pursue a career. Most students in the journalism classes want to become journalists. Shutting down newspapers is not a good representation of the “real world” because that doesn’t happen to professional newspapers. It would be unconstitutional.
The reality is that the world is full of those “unmentionable” situations and it is the duty of a journalist to cover them no matter how harsh it is.
These sensitive topics are what students want to read about. Most don’t want to read about the new club in school, the new teacher, or the new cafeteria food. It is the topics that spark deep conversations that attract the students’ to the newspaper. It encourages them to read which is what teachers want them to do.
Sometimes the articles are about situations within the school. Students should be allowed to know what’s going on in their school, and the administrators need to stop covering up the school’s flaws.
Opposition might say that articles exposing school issues could damage their reputation, but that shouldn’t be an impediment for the truth to come out, and for students to be informed.
Schools need to be more flexible about student publications without disregarding the idea of being school appropriate. Schools should let and even encourage students to touch on harsh topics.