Censored news is fake news


Mariah Valles, Social Media and Website Manager

As of right now, high school student journalists can be forced to follow a “prior review” policy where school administrators have the right to request to see any student-bound media before it is sent to press. In Washington, administrators hold the power to deem any article irrelevant, inappropriate, or unnecessary to be in a student publication without any extensive reasoning.

This all streamed from the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood versus Kuhlmeier, when students at Hazelwood East High School published articles about marriage and teen pregnancy. The administration believed that those articles did not belong in a high school newspaper. The result of the case was that administrators have the right to oversee what is to be put in student publications, as they are the leaders of the school and would be held responsible.

Since then, student journalists and advisers have fought back and 13 states have put laws or regulations in place regarding the issue.

Administrators believe that students want the power in order to publish “whatever they want.” They believe that students only care about the matter, and are fighting for it so students can write on marijuana and alcohol, and bully people. I’d like to note that free speech granted in the first amendment does not include hate speech. That and a student publication can not promote  or write on topics that their student population cannot engage in (for example, high school students cannot legally drink alcohol…so it wouldn’t be published in the paper).

Washington state Senate Bill 5064, regarding free speech for student journalists, has had a huge hold on my heart for the past few years. This bill would make prior review in Washington state essentially illegal, giving student editors the final say about publications.

I have testified on behalf of this bill three times now, and I will continue to do so until it is passed. My high school, Auburn High School, brought this bill back on the table and it is humbling to say that I have been a part of this whole experience. Senator Joe Fain of Auburn, visited my high school and ate lunch with student editors including myself a few years back, and the rest is history.

I’m also so lucky to have had attended a school that did not practice prior review. Because of this, I was able to grow into a strong young journalist who refuses to be censored.

During my time at Auburn High School, there was a strict editorial policy that was in place. First, no content would be published that the Auburn Reporter or Seattle Times wouldn’t publish. If students weren’t sure, we would call the publication and ask ourselves. Second, no one-sided story was published. When talking about the editorial policy, I always bring up the time when my adviser invited a police officer to talk with a student who was reporting on police brutality.

I think that often times administrators who uphold prior review don’t take student journalists seriously enough. With all due respect, in high school I knew more about journalism laws and ethics than my principal at the time did.

This bill is so important in a day and age where the media is constantly under attack. It’s crucial for student journalists, especially those still learning, to understand what is right from wrong and I’m here to tell you: Prior review is wrong and does not happen in the real world of journalism.

Student journalist or professional journalist, at the end of the day… we are journalists and deserve protections under the first amendment.