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Be Bold on Student Press Freedom Day


by Kristin Taylor, MJE, JEA scholastic press rights director

Today is Student Press Freedom Day, a national day of action when student journalists in the United States raise awareness of the challenges they face, celebrate their contributions to their schools and communities, and take actions to protect and restore their First Amendment freedoms.

The theme this year is Bold Journalism, Brave Advocacy. I can’t think of a time when we need boldness and bravery more than now, with so many attempts to legislate critical thinking. So many school libraries are facing censorship, anti-LGBTQ legislation is targeting schools and Florida even banned the new AP African American Studies class (and, more disturbingly, the College Board bowed to those demands.)

But take hope in our student journalists. They aren’t waiting for professional newsrooms; they are localizing these controversial stories, digging deeper into the impact of censorship and attempts to legislate thinking. Just look at Caroline Caruso reporting on book bans in her school, Kaden Bryant or Ceclia Cheng, reporting on the AP African American Studies course ban, or Brennan Mumper reporting on the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. 

Our student journalists are essential voices in our democracy, and it’s time to celebrate the schools who champion their free speech. 

For the past 23 years, a panel of judges representing JEA, NSPA and Quill & Scroll have come together to read two rounds of applications to determine which schools are honoring the First Amendment through their support of a free student media program.

We at SPRC are thrilled to recognize 16 schools for their support of their student journalists. As the FAPFA committee read through the applications, we were struck by some of the administrators’ comments about the importance of a free student press. As I did last year, I want to share some of those excerpts of school leaders who get the importance of Bold Journalism and Brave Advocacy.

  • “As principal, I feel honored to work in a community that honors First Amendment principles. I see how these principles modeled by our student run journalism extends to other corners of our school community. MTHS is an organization that respects student voice and will look to listen before acting. … Celebrating journalism has been part of the MTHS fabric for a long time.” -Principal Greg Schellenberg, Mountlake Terrace High School
  • “Loudoun Valley has a strong tradition in student journalism. …It is our perspective that the First Amendment strengthens our teaching and learning approaches because of our belief in its importance in journalism as well as in student engagement, student voice, and student choice in our school and school community.” -Principal Susan Ross, Loudoun Valley High School
  • “We are truly proud of the work our journalism program has done in the past several years, building on a previously existing culture of the core values of respect, responsibility, courage, curiosity, doing your best and integrity found at the core of our program. After being recognized last year by the JEA we are proud to continue this work into the future and only grow better for our students and community.” -Associate School Director Joshua Hugo, DSST Montview High School
  • “I am so proud of the work of our student journalists! A hallmark of a CESJDS education!” -Principal Lisa Vardi, Charles E Smith Jewish Day School
  • “I would like to note that our school and district Mission Statement includes the words: ‘Open expression is encouraged.’ Further, it states, ‘Our goal is to advance our students’ growth into principled, informed, and capable citizens who will help guide a democracy that follows humanitarian principles in the global forum, and shape a just society where individuals may reach their full potential.’ Our school culture is largely based on this mission and reflects our students’ understanding of, and respect for, the First Amendment.” -Principal Allyson Mizoguchi, Wayland High School
  • “West Springfield High School believes that students do not ‘shed their First Amendment Rights at the schoolhouse gate.’ West Springfield High School has an open communication with our student journalists and publication producers that encourages their exploration and investigation into areas that are directed by their interests.” -Assistant Principal Shannon Matheny West Springfield High School
  • “I see our journalism programs as a great learning experience for students and part of that learning experience includes taking ownership of their work. As a result, the students learn 21st century skills that are part of Fairfax County’s Portrait of a Graduate goals, including collaboration, communication, ethical decision-making, critical and creative thinking, and resilience. Supporting journalism students’ freedoms enables them to do their best work.” -Principal Ellen Reilly, McLean HS
  • “As with all programs and clubs at our school, we believe in the power of student initiative. Our job is to educate and empower students to do their best in whatever field they pursue. Our journalism program upholds this vision, and, through education and skill development, enables our students to produce high quality publications that are completely student driven. Our publications are pure representations of who they are, what they value, and what they are curious about as teenagers in Silicon Valley in the early 2020s. We are proud to offer them this opportunity to fully express their lives.” -Assistant Division Head Kelly Horan, The Harker School

The FAPFA winners were announced today at noon CT on If your school isn’t yet among the lucky on that list, know that we here at SPRC are here to support you and your student journalists. Perhaps sharing some of these administrative statements might start a dialogue with school leaders who need a little push to see the value of free student media programs. 

Be bold, scholastic journalists!