Should schools be allowed to censor school newspapers?

by Pascale Image: Tyler Menezes/flickr

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” - Thomas Jefferson.

Freedom of speech is deeply ingrained in many modern societies, and can be considered as the foundation of democracy. Yet it is still under heavy control, from national to high school newspapers. The question of censoring school newspapers specifically is a longstanding debate, even reaching national courts in the US. However, these particular rulings, as well as many other long-standing regulations in and out of the US fail to provide clear guidelines as to the justification of a school’s decision to censor an article.

While there is value in editing school newspapers to preserve quality and enforce child-safety regulations, the line between editing and censorship can quickly become blurred. Child-safety should always be a school’s main concern, however it is somewhat unreasonable to believe that students have no sense of child-safety themselves. While they may not know specific regulations, most seniors, who typically edit newspapers, have a good sense of what is wise to publish and what isn’t. In regards to quality control, the same applies. Articles are not published without being edited. Editors ensure that articles are up to the standards of the paper, and usually have a good sense of when articles need to remain anonymous.

Many would argue that there is also a question of the school’s reputation when it comes to censoring articles. However, if students feel passionately enough about a problem in the school that they choose to write an article about it, it is a pretty good indication that the topic needs to be discussed. Publishing these types of articles is an excellent way to open up conservations about these issues. Furthermore, the ability to publish criticism is an invaluable way of allowing student voices to be heard, as there are few platforms on which we can reach the community on as large a scale. Lastly, school administration won't win over students - past or present - by hiding their own flaws. If there are flaws large enough that a student feels compelled to write an article about it, then it isn’t a secret. In fact, by allowing such articles to be published the school demonstrates their willingness to listen to the student’s voices and take their concerns into consideration.

In conclusion, allowing student newspapers to go uncensored eliminates bias from school administration, and provides a platform for students to speak their minds. After all, a school newspaper is made primarily for the students, so what’s the point if we aren’t permitted to publish what we believe?


Pascale is a full-time member of the OnJustice Group

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