Arizona Bill Would Stop Censorship Of High-School Newspapers

Published: Monday, February 6, 2017 - 5:00am
Updated: Monday, February 6, 2017 - 3:27pm
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Melanie Allen is the newspaper adviser at Moon Valley High School in Glendale.

Freedom of the press could soon be legally protected in Arizona’s high-school halls.

A Supreme Court decision has ruled student newspapers don’t have the same constitutional rights as other publications. But an Arizona state senator saw that as having a chilling effect and introduced a bill to stop school administrators from censoring or preventing publication.

The bill, which passed a Senate panel, says student editors, not administrators, are the ones who can give final approval on school-sponsored media. The legislation prevents administrators from censoring any news stories or preventing publication except under certain circumstances.

Melanie Allen is the newspaper adviser at Moon Valley High School in Glendale. She said some of her kids’ stories have been spiked by administrators, and that’s created a chilling effect.

“So they start shying away from the controversial topics, and they started censoring themselves," she said. "Because they’re like well if we have to have this paper reviewed, why are we going to even write this story, it’s not even worth our time if they’re just going to come back and tell us no.”

Allen said she and other newspaper advisers do their best to teach proper journalistic ethics to avoid problems like inappropriate speech, cartoons or damaging stories. Instead, she wants students to feel like they can discuss tough topics like immigration or other current events.

“They’re afraid that their voices are going to be a little suppressed," she said. "And so I think that this bill would give them an opportunity to take some of those chances and really write some of that hard-hitting news that they haven’t written before.”

The bill — sponsored by Republican state Sen. Kimberly Yee, who was also a student reporter — does not allow any content that would libelous, be an invasion of privacy, violates the law or disrupts school.

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