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New Voices: Giving a Voice to Student Journalists


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Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier was the landmark Supreme Court case that decided the rights of many student journalists.

In this case, the principal of Hazelwood East High prohibited a couple of stories from being in the school newspaper because he felt they were inappropriate. The newspaper staff, namely editor Cathy Kuhlmeier, felt this was unfair and brought the issue to court. It rose all the way to the Supreme Court, who decided that school administration held the right to exercise editorial control if they felt the content interfered with the learning environment. HB 1940 New Voices aims to change that.

New Voices is a piece of legislation with the intent to reverse the decision of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier and allow students the same rights their real-world counterparts have. Many states have already passed New Voices and students are exercising their free press rights. There are still some states that are waiting for this to pass. Missouri is one of them.

Today, as I write this, the bill is sitting, waiting to be brought to the floor and voted on. If it passes and the governor signs, the legacy of suppressed journalistic rights for Missouri student journalists will fade where it started, almost symbolic in a sense.

If covered seriously and appropriately, why can’t students grow and learn about the world with their peers and by their peers? ”

For us at NorthmenNews and other Oak Park publications, rarely ever does editorial control get used, but it’s still a power that exists and could be applied. For example, in the issue of The Northmen’s Log we are working on right now, we are covering some very controversial and heated topics. We plan to ask Principal Chris Sartain, Ed.D., before we even start the interview stage if he has any “pedagogical” concerns with our stories. If he does, they’ll have to be replaced with something he’d find more appropriate. With New Voices, we wouldn’t have to ask for his approval. This would mean a wider range of topics that could be written on and the elimination of the looming fear of repercussions if something isn’t well received.

I thoroughly believe that the New Voices legislation should pass because despite the fact that we have a good amount of freedom of the press, some other schools in more conservative parts of Missouri do not. For them it would make a large impact. They could write more stories that would be hard hitting and essential for their readers.

In addition to that, censorship in the name of common decency and a professional environment is one thing. Censorship for the sake of preventing certain knowledge and opinions to be spread or expressed isn’t favorable. High schoolers are getting to an age where they will have to face some discomfort and experience some of those opinions and experiences that are being silenced in school media. If covered seriously and appropriately, why can’t students grow and learn about the world with their peers and by their peers?



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About the Writer
Dakota Ake, Editor-in-Chief, Reporter

This is my second year on the Northmen’s Log and I am one of the two editors-in-chief for this year. I have always enjoyed writing and being on staff...

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