Time for change in North Carolina

North Carolina should introduce legislation to protect student press

Editorial Board

With the evolving lack of trust in news sources, in part due to the emergence of the term “Fake News,” the editorial staff took a look into the legal rights and protection of student journalists.

As many students have learned, in 1988 the U.S Supreme Court decided in the case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier that since a high school news outlet was technically sponsored by the school, it was within the administration’s rights to censor the publication.

However, as time passed, some states have taken a new approach, writing legislation to protect First Amendment rights for student journalists.

Out of the 50 states, Pennsylvania and Washington include protection for student speech rights in their education code. In addition, Arkansas and Massachusetts, have protection for college journalists. At the moment, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Colorado, Oregon and California include free expression protection for student journalists.

This ratio is far more lopsided than we believe it should be. A total of only 11 states have protections. This means that the student journalists can ethically report on stories they choose.

However, there are some instances for which student reporting can still be censored even in these states: reporters producing material that is obscene to minors, or material that is libelous, which is false information that causes harm to another’s image or business.

With concrete evidence of one of these actions, the administration has the ability to censor the publication.

Being student journalists, it is scary to think that any of the stories we write could be shot down by our school’s administration at any time. One of the biggest threats in our opinion to the ideals of our democracy, begins with the silencing of news.

Students are the future, and student journalists are the future of journalism. If North Carolina, or any state for that matter, continues to allow the quieting and censorship of student-led news, we believe it will continue to add to the divide between honest and fake news.

The editorial staff is grateful for Principal Patti Hamler’s hands-off method regarding our publication. However, this is not set in stone. We hope that as states continue to add protection for student journalists, North Carolina will soon follow in their footsteps.