Opinion: Student journalism rights must be protected


Midway Staff

Legal protections for student journalists will become impotent unless they are renewed and the importance of student journalism rights is understood, argue a collection of Midway staff.

Two advisers were fired in December from Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado after their student-run newspaper published a student’s column arguing for the continued legalization of abortion, opposing the Catholic school’s beliefs. Along with a letter sent out by the school’s principal and president, the column was removed from both print and online publication.

While Colorado, Illinois and 13 other states have laws that protect the rights of public school student journalists, more action should be taken so these laws do not go ignored and will pave the way for all schools to protect student journalists from censorship.

By appealing to youth and amplifying their stories, student journalists provide an essential perspective to the school communities through their unique outlook. Student journalists should receive legal protection to write stories about topics that they are affected by, without censorship, as they can connect with their audience based on shared experiences. 

Despite laws that prevent censorship from occurring in Illinois public schools, administrators still employ this practice, a pattern that would not continue if the law advocating for student journalists was held to a higher standard. In 2019 the student newspaper staff at Naperville Central High School, was about to publish an article about classroom disruptions caused by a student when the principal censored a quarter of the piece that questioned the school district’s policy regarding the learning environment for special education students. 

Student newspapers provide a solution to fill the growing news gap as over the last 15 years the United States has lost 2,100 newspapers, leaving at least 1,800 communities that had previously had a news outlet without one. For example, The Michigan Daily, the student-run newspaper of the University of Michigan, has provided the city of Ann Arbor with the only regular and daily news outlet for years. 

Several schools have repeatedly ignored Illinois’s 2016 law protecting the rights of student journalists, underscoring the importance of passing the proposed HB 4560 bill, introduced this year to expand the rights of advisers and students. It is up to students across Illinois to advocate for the bill by petitioning their representatives and spreading awareness on the issue. 

This represents the opinion of students in Period 2 Beginning Journalism: Sophie Baker, Mia Lipson, Clare McRoberts, Zara Siddique, Ainsley Williams and Oliver Wilson.