When the credentials of Pittsburg (Kansas) High School’s newly hired principal were questioned in print last year, it set off a storm that ended in her resignation and a series of meetings to determine school board policy on hiring.
All that because the high school’s newspaper, The Booster Redux, published the results of its student investigation. Those students rightly received numerous awards and plenty of local and national attention. They also have a leg up on their peers in Missouri because Kansas law is on their side. The Kansas Student Publications Act grants high school students independent control over their editorial content and protects them from administrative censorship,
Missouri’s high school newspapers must abide under an entirely different set of rules that leave decisions about what stories get published up to administrators, not students.
Missouri state Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, pointed to the Pittsburg students as an example of what student journalists can accomplish. In 2017, his bill — the Cronkite New Voices Act — passed the House but not the Senate. It was a second attempt as Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, had introduced it in 2016.
Corlew has not given up on this piece of legislation. Today, the bill will be heard in the Missouri House. It would provide that, in both public high schools and public institutions of higher education, a student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored medial.
The bill will permit schools districts and student-media to “regulate the number, length, frequency, and format of school-sponsored media. School districts must adopt a written freedom of the press policy that includes reasonable provisions for the time, place and manner of student expression. The policy may also restrict speech that is offensive or threatening. District or student-media adviser review of school-sponsored media and encouragement of professional standards of English and journalism will not abridge the right to freedom of expression.”
We support the Cronkite New Voices Act and believe the efforts of Missouri’s young journalists deserve to be taken seriously. Today’s hearing is a step toward that end. This year, we encourage legislators to see this effort to the end and by the end of the session adopt this legislation.