So it seems that the State of Oregon has passed the “nation’s first law to help protect high school journalists from censorship by school administrations”. USA Today reports the measure is to be signed Friday by Gov. Ted Kulongoski and gives students the right to sue schools for violating their “free-press rights.”
As a self-proclaimed member of the much-lauded Fourth Estate, BoardBuzz is all for responsible student journalism. Heck, BoardBuzz itself has been accused once or twice of engaging in responsible journalism! But, even so, we can’t wonder at the wisdom of a measure that would seem to encourage more litigation. If there’s one thing schools don’t need more of, it’s law suits. Interestingly, that very issue may be a matter of concern for other state legislatures. USA Today says a similar bill in the state of Washington “died in the state Senate in April.”
Fourth Estaters all over the place appear to be lauding the measure nonetheless. “Lauren Dillard, editor of Oregon State University’s Daily Barometer, told lawmakers that students can’t learn how to hold governments accountable if they can’t question their own governing body. It’s difficult to serve as that Fourth Estate if you don’t have independence from your organization.”
We doesn’t mean to be obtuse, but does this mean students can’t understand the concept of holding government accountable without having the ability to write whatever they want about their teachers and their schools? Once again, we’re flummoxed. But, maybe that’s because we thought we learned all about challenging the government back when we read Thoreau on civil disobedience
And, as the loyal opposition, the Oregon School Boards Association, rightly points out, isn’t it the job of editors to ultimately decide what gets in the papers? Why “even professional journalists are subject to the editorial control of publishers and owners” and no one gripes about that. In this case, the school is the publisher and just like the private media conglomerates, it provides the ink, and the paper, the distribution networks, and in this case even the instruction! In our rush to let truth ring from the mountaintops, we should not forget the raison d’etre of student journalism in the first place is teaching and learning, not unbridled expression.