Ink and Independence: Student Press Freedom Day

By Gekeya Pinder
February 26, 2024

Graphic by Gekeya Pinder.
Graphic by Gekeya Pinder.

Thursday, Feb. 22nd marked Student Press Freedom Day, which is a day of advocacy for the right of student media to speak out through journalism. 

Why Student Press Freedom Day?

Student Press Freedom Day was created by the Student Press Law Center. The idea came about after the 30th anniversary of the Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier decision

In 1988, at Hazelwood East High School in St. Louis, Missouri, students involved in their school’s newspaper, the Spectrum, wrote stories about teen pregnancy and the impact of divorce based on their peers’ experiences. 

Photo from Flickr.

When the articles were published into the Spectrum, Hazelwood’s principal deleted the pages that included the stories on the very topics without acknowledging the students who wrote them. The students found out about what was done and decided to take their case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri claiming that the high school violated their First Amendment rights. 

The court ruled that the school had the power to remove the students’ articles that were written in the journalism class. Then, the students took their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which found out the newspaper was public form and decided that the school officials still had the power to censor the topics under certain circumstances.

Their last hope was appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court which in a 5-3 ruling still believed that the principal’s actions did not violate their freedom of speech rights. The newspaper is funded and promoted by the school so if it is seen as inappropriate, it could give a bad look on the school based on others’ beliefs. 

Dr. Jerry Zurek, professor and former chair of Cabrini’s communication department, said, “I believe that Student Press Freedom Day is a great day to inform people on and off campus about press freedom and how it affects student journalists.”

This day illustrates that student journalists should be treated as citizens who have the right and responsibility that comes along with all press freedoms. 

Zurek said, “A lot of people don’t realize that student reporters have all of the rights and are citizens. They are trained to inform people. People believe that student press should basically be public relations and only talk about the good and not the bad. Student media is not a public relations department. They have to tell the truth on everything that is going on.”

The importance of press freedom

This important day highlights the fact that the public confuses opinion for journalism, when student journalists are willing to lay down the facts while larger organizations cannot. 

Zurek said, “This year, we’ve seen students reporting on important stories around the country that other for-profit news media haven’t covered, and we would have lost those stories if student journalists didn’t step in to share.”

Zurek continued, “I believe that it’s important to understand that if the student media is not going to find out information about what’s going on at the campus, then who else is going to do that?”

In sight of Cabrini’s journalists

The Loquitur is filled with student journalists that always fill the community with information that is needed. 

Abigail Flanagan, senior health science major, said, “I read the Loquitur and I think it’s really great. I always read about different events on campus. I feel like journalism and the Loquitur always give a good understanding of what’s going on in the campus and the importance of community events.”

Zurek said, “What the Loquitur has always done and is continuing to do is to be very careful and accurate when it comes to reporting on ideas that many won’t like.

Support New Voices PA

The new voices bill is waiting to be passed to overturn the Hazelwood decision. 

New Voices is there to protect student journalists’ rights and not let officials censor their stories when it looks on their part. 

Students who are not journalists can help by spreading the word and learning about the law in support of press freedom.

Photo by Student Press Law Center.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gekeya Pinder

You May Also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Special Project

Title IX Redefined Website

Produced by Cabrini Communication
Class of 2024

Listen Up

Season 2, Episode 3: Celebrating Cabrini and Digging into its Past


Scroll to Top
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap