A Texas student reflects on hitting the Hazelwood ceiling
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The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Freedom of speech, yet we are limited.
“In a 5-3 decision rendered in 1988, the Supreme Court overturned the circuit court’s decision, determining that school administrators could exercise prior restraint of school-sponsored expression, such as newspapers and assembly speeches, if the censorship is ‘reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns’. In this, school-sponsored newspapers are considered limited public forums of expression.”
Ever since the Hazelwood decision, people have failed to realize how much this really affects and limits our constitutional rights of freedom of speech, or the press.
All over the country, students are being silenced. Schools are censoring students who are trying to write articles or stories for their school newspaper, journalism class, yearbook class, etc.
I myself know what it is like to be silenced. I was a high school student and Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper and my principal told me that we were not allowed to publish some of the articles that my writers had spent so much time working on.
Some of the topics these articles included were: legalization of same-sex marriage, pro-abstinence, and the use of marijuana.
The pro-abstinence article was an editorial written by a student about why she thinks pro-abstinence is the way to go when it comes to kids having sex. She backed up her opinion with statistics and made sure to leave religious reasons out of it.
I was confused on why my principal didn’t want us to publish a pro-abstinence article. When we asked him, he said we can’t publish it because it is a conservative opinion. However, if the student rewrote it from an editorial to a news article, then we could publish it. The thought process behind that was absolutely absurd to me, because he had also just denied a news article over same-sex marriage, which he considered too liberal.
Believe it or not, my principal then proceeded to provide us with a list of topics we could cover, and a list of topics that we could not.
This is more common than you would think and occurs in most schools all over America. Kids are in school to learn, but what relevance is there to what they learn if they can’t practice it?
As students, we should be able to write about real topics and issues. We should be able to discuss actual pressing matters that the rest of the student body and the community would be interested in.
Student journalism aside, how will students learn how to communicate real issues to the world? Students need the opportunity to learn as early as they can before it’s too late. Speech and expression cannot be limited because when limited, the potential impact it could have on hundreds of people is being taken away.
To not be able to write something you truly believe to be important only because a superior did not agree or think it right — it is such a discouraging feeling. New Voices is trying to reinstate that courage and power to all the students who need it as well as deserve it.
Join us in this fight, this fight to give these students back their voice and to guarantee that it will never be taken from them again. Together, our voices will be louder than ever.
Naba Siddiq is a graduate of Seven Lakes High School in Houston and attends Texas Tech University.