Increasing Student Rights

Anthony Arenas-Rubiales, Reporter

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The first amendment rights of journalism students are at stake in the state of Nebraska. As Friday the 15 of February approaches teachers and students in the state are waiting to find out what will happen.
LB 206 is a proposed bill presented by state senator Adam Morfeld.
It will prohibit administrators from censoring student work based on the pedological concerns created by Hazelwood vs Kuhlmeier in 1988.
Currently, student publications can be censored if there are concerns surrounding the advocation of alcohol or drug use, vulgar language, bias in the writing, or relates the school to any political controversy. Also, it can be censored if an administrator feels it is inadequately researched or unsuitable for immature audiences.
Others are concerned that if a story is written and the principal does not like it or approve of its content, the teacher could lose their job, and students could suffer consequences.
“I think sometimes some people run into situations where the journalism deportment wrote an article that the principal didn’t like and all of the sudden,” principal Tom Wagner said. “You’re not the journalist anymore.”
Since 1988 administrators have been allowed to censor student articles from being published.
Some have taken advantage of this power and keep censoring student work simply because they don’t like it.
“I can’t imagine retaliating against [the journalism department] because you guys did an article on something that I didn’t like,” Wagner said. “If I’m going to pull a story, I would like to think that my opinion of it wouldn’t have to do anything with the topic.”
There have been cases around the district in which principals would take advantage of this law and keep students quiet and wouldn’t let them publish their work.
Former Benson student Rockie Shambare had her writing pieces censored when she was trying to publish her work.
Shambare was concerned that she would wind up in trouble for her publications.
She ended up getting kicked off the dance team.
“I think a lot of it is sometimes principals or administrators are afraid [that the topics will] cause problems in the hallway,” Wagner said. “I think any principal appreciates that the newspaper is going to go do something that could be controversial or uncomfortable.”
According to Wagner, communication is key.
Instead of having more student censorship, communication between the advisor and the administrators regarding the topics can be beneficial for the staff.
“We view Mr. Wagner as part of our journalism team,” journalism advisor Justine Garman said. “We work with him n the story creation process if we forsee potential concerns.”
When students are censored for their writing pieces published, they can find help at Student Press Law Center (SPLC.Org).
Lawyer’s work for free to help journalism students combat against the staff members who are trying to shut them down.