Student journalism: an endangered species

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Student journalism: an endangered species

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

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Walking down Fifth Avenue, one can plainly see the picturesque Tudor storefronts and quaint stores that give Pelham its signature small-town feel. However, in contrast with the apparent flawlessness of Pelham’s facade, there are a plethora of issues that have been swept under the rug. Specifically, the school district, a sponge for approximately 60 percent of both villages’ taxes, has its fair share of problems. 

Yet, as students, we have barely any voice, nor a way to learn about the issues which plague our school. We have the Pel Mel, the Colonial Times, the Hutchinson Bear, and all of the school district’s various student newspapers, but just how far are these organizations permitted to go? The staff at these school newspapers work hard to provide the news to their respective student bodies, and all the better to them for doing so. But even as they work diligently to provide the news, time and time again the administration works against them.

Currently, New York and many other states across the U.S. follow the decision Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier from 1988 with respect to issues of student voice, which legally allows school administrators to censor students provided that the censorship was “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Since this decision, the wording has been widely left up to interpretation and debate. It is because of this that in many cases, school administrators have claimed poor grammar or poor writing has forced them to withhold an article. It also has been interpreted to mean that topics which were determined to be inappropriate for younger audiences also could be withheld, without any barometer as to what exactly made something inappropriate for younger audiences. Included in this could easily be a wide number of very important issues that districts or schools don’t want to discuss and easily could censor.

To put it simply, what this means is that prior to publication, important topics which matter to students are limited or even cut entirely without any reason needed as to why. Students in Pelham Public Schools deserve to know the goings-on of their community. Students and educators, elders and youths, we all have two things in common. We are all Americans, and we all have a right to the same fundamental freedoms.

This is why today the Examiner writes in support of Assembly Bill 03079, “an act to amend the education law in relation to enacting the student free journalism act,” sponsored by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and state Senator Brian Kavanagh. This legislation will allow for freedom of the press in schools, protecting the students and their advisors, while still maintaining proper decorum like the prohibition on violating laws and libel. This piece of legislation is exactly what we need to correct this pressing issue in New York public schools. If enacted, finally students across the state will be enabled to write and receive news which will affect them and their classmates. The Examiner applauds Assemblywoman Lupardo and Senator Kavanagh. Their legislation shows that they are part of a rare breed of people who truly believe in helping this state’s students grow to be better and to be more informed.

Assembly Bill 03079 will follow in the footsteps of more than 10 other states that have codified protections for student expression, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, and Illinois.

There are issues that need to be published. They are vital to and impactful on the daily lives of every single student from Kindergartners to seniors. Which is why the Examiner stands with 03079, Assemblywoman Lupardo and Senator Kavanagh. Stand with the Examiner, student journalists, and school papers around the state. Defend our right to a free press.

The Examiner urges you all to do what you can. Whether you share this piece on social media or write a letter to your local legislator, every modicum of your support will help protect student journalism and help expose threats to truth in our schools. The Examiner will be publishing a series of editorials about this legislation in the coming weeks. The student journalism community and the staff at the Examiner thank you.