Pages Navigation Menu

Class activities, lesson plan  for Student Press Freedom Day


by Candace Bowen, MJE

With little more than a month to plan, it’s time to think of the best way to celebrate Student Press Freedom Day, Feb. 22, 2024. For this sixth annual event, the Student Press Law Center announced its theme as “Powerfully Persistent.”

Who best embodies that description?  And, yet,  who is most likely to have that action squashed? Yes, both answers are “student journalists.”

This also coincides with JEA’s Scholastic Journalism Week (#SJW2024) (Feb. 19 – 24) so there’s plenty of reason to put the focus on what is so important.

Let’s explore some ways to support these young journalists and help them achieve their potential. Let’s also show the world – or at least our local communities – why they are so important.

The SPLC website brings up three important issues to consider during that week – and on into the future:

Know Your Rights

Depending on how much your students know about their rights, consider the linked item – Legal Topics for Student Journalists — as an assessment of what they know about their rights and responsibilities already or as a teaching tool your students use to find the answers.

Tell Your Community’s Truth

Students know more about the impact of their schools and communities on local youth than anyone does. Plan and beginning researching and writing about some of these important news topics: 

* Protests (Israel and Hamas): What is happening where you live?

* Candidates for office (state and local will have impact….but don’t forget school board. If you have new members there, what are their stands on textbooks, gender issues like use of pronouns and bathrooms?

 * Bus safety: winter issues concerning icy roads and warm shelters for waiting, lack of drivers, seatbelt requirements – good or bad?

 * Lack of doctors: medical personnel leaving your state because of changing laws, esp. for OBGYNs? 

Promote Accountability & Transparency

If administrators are censoring student media, they may be keeping stories out because they “make the school look bad.” But would exploring them in depth with experts, maybe even adopting a solutions journalism approach, help make things better and not, to use an old cliché, sweep them under the rug? Think about where to get good, credible, local sources for the story suggestions in the previous category.

Students care and want to make a difference. Let’s help them and ensure they can be Powerfully Persistent!