With the 2nd U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the Doninger case, one thing is certainly clear: If we want to protect student expression rights and responsibilities, we are going to have to be the ones who stand up to do so.
SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte said the courts abdicated their responsibility to protect the basic human rights of vulnerable young people.
“Young people are going to have to organize and mobilize like never before to petition their legislators and members of Congress for better statutory protection,” LoMonte said. “This ruling is a wake-up call to every student in America that their rights are in peril and that they cannot depend on the federal courts to police even the clearest disciplinary overreactions.”
Adam Goldstein, SPLC attorney advocate, said the decision was flawed.
“It opines that students don’t have rights unless those rights are clearly established in light of the school environment,” Goldstein said, “as if students at home didn’t possess citizenship.”
It’s time for students and teachers to clearly highlight those rights.
May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. Embrace its principles to endorse student expression as a key constitutionally protected right of citizenship. Create forums to talk about how and why journalism is at the core of democracy and the building of citizenship. Demonstrate the viability of student decision making, critical thinking and responsible expression through student media that make a difference.
In short, stand up for the importance and legitimacy of First Amendment rights for these American journalists, whether they criticize or commend or simply report issues, placid or emotional.
We’ve said it here before, and now again: We must oppose policies and practices that limit student expression. We must stand up and shout out for student journalism.