Monday, February 12, 2007

USA Today supports HB 1307 with editorial

Supporters of the Student Free Press Bill, House Bill 1307, got a boost this morning when the USA Today wrote an editorial supporting students' First Amendment rights titled, "Schools fail Free Speech 101: Muzzling student press sends the wrong message":

"Why are some American schools, which are supposed to instill the values of democracy in the nation's youth, instead teaching censorship? The probable answer is the same one that blocks democracy in Iraq, Russia and any number of other places in the world: When those in power find free speech uncomfortable, they're tempted to squash it. ...

"A major function of schools is to prepare students for life in a democracy. And one of the cornerstones of democracy is the free exchange of ideas. Lessons in bowing to life under censorship shouldn't be part of the curriculum."

The USA Today also published an opposing viewpoint from Arcella Hall, president of the Association of Washington School Principals and principal of Grandview High School. She argues:

"We rely on administrators' judgment for so many other things going on in schools, from hiring teachers and guiding curriculum to providing a safe learning environment. Why shouldn't student media — and journalism educators — be subject to accountability by those running the institution? ...

"In our state, we're fortunate to have several nationally recognized student papers. These same outstanding student reporters say a solid working relationship with advisers and principals has contributed to their success. Like real-world editors, good principals meet with their advisers and student journalists to discuss stories. They encourage the tackling of tough issues in lieu of easy, tabloid-style stories."

She neglects to mention, however, that Washington state's nationally recognized student newspapers -- including all five Pacemaker winners in 2006 -- operate in a free press environment where prinicipals DO NOT review the content of the newspaper prior to publication.

It is not a coincidence that students do their best work in the least restrictive environment ...

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