WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Plan Would Give More Freedom To Student Journalists

Apr 12, 2016
Originally published on April 11, 2016 12:28 pm

Illinois representatives are debating how much freedom high school journalists should have to criticize their school district's administration.  But state educators and local school districts say they worry about being held responsible for what their schools publish.

  The Supreme Court sided with students in Iowa protesting the Vietnam War... saying students don't lose their rights "at the schoolhouse gate." The case was Tinker v. Des Moines. But a later case narrowed students' free speech rights by giving school officials final say over student expression.

Representative Will Guzzardi,  a Democrat from Chicago, told a House committee the measure would let students decide what to publish unless a school advisor says the content violates certain standards. 

"Any student speech would incite students to disrupt school activity would not be allowed under Tinker. So we're not allowing for dangerous speech. We are allowing for critical speech," Guzzardi said.

Hope Johnson is a senior and the editor-in-chief of the yearbook at Taylorville High School. She told members of the House she knows what is and what is not acceptable to publish.

"Although we are young, we are taught responsible journalism," she said. "We hold ourselves accountable for each and every story that we write. This bill ensures that journalism ethics are maintained."

But critics, including education groups said state law should continue to allow them to edit student content  to prevent putting out inappropriate material. 

They said they're concerned about students publishing attacks on other students and teachers.

The committee approved the measure, but members said they want to see changes to the proposal before it's debated by the full House.

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