Throughout the many trials and tribulations of the adolescent years teenagers try to find many different ways to express themselves and discover who they are. There are different forms of expression including music, art, fashion, and, of course, writing. Whether it is through a personal journal used to express private feelings, or through the high school publications such as the school newspaper or yearbook. These forms of expression give teens an outlet for creativity and a sense of accomplishment. They also teach time management skills such as meeting deadlines, and help develop a work-based environment with other.
While these publications remain important to students, school authorities continually challenge them.
High school publications are not protected by the first amendment, therefore they are not entitled to free speech. Controversial issues such as homosexuality, teenage pregnancy, and drug issues are forbidden in many high school newspapers because the school officials think it will hurt the schools image, or that it will influence students to make poor decisions. If a student writes about a controversial topic anyway, then it is possible that either their article will not get published, or that the student will be punished for writing dissenting opinions without permission.
For example, one high school journalist Mary Margaret Nussbaum came under strong personal attacks from churches and a local family values group after writing a story about the lives of gay teenagers. The family values group took strong action to censor the newspaper by urging the state representative to strengthen not only legislation against first amendment rights in high school publications, but also against homosexuality.
While Nussbaum was merely writing the article and did not express any personal opinion in it, she still suffered consequences (McCarthy 3). Another censorship issue came about in Connecticut when a student at Rockville High School, Chris DelVecchio, wrote an editorial stating his opinion on the mayoral candidates. The town committee for the mayor that he spoke against complained and eventually forced the local school board to “forbid high school journalists from taking editorial positions on candidates (Featherstone 14).” However small these instances may seem, they still pose a larger problem of shaping a new generation of kids that are well informed and should be free to express their opinions, no matter how opposing they may be.
Authorities have pressured many high school newspapers so heavily that they have become sort of bulletin boards for positive news. They never explore anything new or exciting, and fail to challenge their readers or authorities in any way (Saltzman 93).
High school officials have no problem with their students writing upbeat stores on Homecoming queens or football heroes, but when they step out of the narrow boundaries set for them then the battle begins.
Some states have made their public high schools free speech territory on a state level. These states include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Massachusetts. These states have not yet been challenged with their decisions. Since the Supreme Court case Hazlewood School District v. Kuhlemeier, which gives a looser interpretation to the previous law stating that “officials could limit oppression only when it would disrupt the school functions or invade personal rights (Featherstone 14).
In a recent poll, respondents from the Scholastic Journalism Division expressed that they feel the Supreme Court should revise it’s decision and refrain from stopping any publications at all (Dickson 4). While this is one opinion, many feel differently about the issue. High school journalism is a base form of communication between not only teenagers and their peers, but the administrators as well. If it is taken away it not only breaks down communication internally and externally, but builds barriers as well.
Dickson, Tom. “Preparing scholastic press advisers for roles after Hazlewood decision.
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McCarthy, Colman. “Student journalist hears from religious right after story on gay teens.
” National Catholic Reporter. V.33 N.30 (May 30, 1997): p3. .