PENNSYLVANIA MAY CHANGE STUDENT PRESS REGS
After Hooters opened in Harrisburg, Pa., and created an uproar in town, Danny Victor said he wanted to express his thoughts in a column for his high school newspaper.
But his thoughts on the restaurant, known for waitresses who wear tight tops and short shorts, may need a rewrite before they are printed in the Lions’ Digest at State College Area High School.
The principal objects to Victor’s use of the word “breast,” and the senior would like to strike a compromise, according to The Associated Press.
“For the most part, he hasn’t had a problem with the paper unless we’ve been talking about sex,” Victor said.
Victor and advocates for student journalists are concerned that proposed changes to state education regulations governing student expression could give principals broader editorial veto power. However, state education officials say the changes are intended to merely streamline current rules.
The existing “freedom of expression” measure, a part of the state’s regulations on student rights and responsibilities, includes a subsection on newspapers and publications that says that school officials can halt the publication of anything “obscene or libelous.” However, they cannot censor stories just because they criticize the school or its administration. In addition, the regulations require schools to set guidelines for approving newspapers before they are printed.
However, a draft of the changes would replace the 11 “freedom of expression” guidelines with four paragraphs offering general guidelines for all forms of expression, from publications to the wearing of armbands.
The Pennsylvania School Press Association said the language is vague and would give administrators the latitude to kill any story they dislike, the AP reported.
“If you censor them, you’re taking away the right of the teacher to teach students to be responsible journalists,” said Jane Blystone, an English and communications teacher at North East High School in Erie County and past president of the student press association.
Only six states – Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Massachusetts – protect student press rights by law, rather than regulation, according to the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va.