FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2023
By Christiana Hadjipavlis
NEW YORK— On February 28th, 2023, over 50 high school students attended an advocacy day in Albany organized by New Voices New York, a coalition of students and teachers that aims to provide legal support for student journalists. The rally was organized to garner support for the Student Journalist Free Speech Act, a bill meant to protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists, allowing them to write freely without fear of censorship from their school administration.
Katina Paron, a member of New Voices New York who helped organize the advocacy day, stated that she has been working with student journalists throughout her entire career and has seen firsthand the harm that censorship of student journalism does. She stated that “a principal isn’t going to make the shots for a basketball team, they want the team to win. We want the same for journalists” and that “you shouldn’t be afraid of controversy.” Akithma Moraes, the editor-in-chief of The Curtis Log at Curtis High School in Staten Island and an attendee of the advocacy day, found that school administrations abuse their power by censoring student journalists and wanted to take action to address the issue.
The goal of the advocacy day was for students to meet with legislators, share their experiences, and facilitate an environment where students could advocate for themselves. Paron reported that the Student Journalist Free Speech Act has gained 13 sponsors since Albany, now with 46 sponsors in the New York State Assembly and 15 in the New York State Senate. According to Moraes, “having the chance to go speak and advocate for others, it felt really good to do that.” So far 17 states in the nation have passed legislation similar to the Student Journalist Free Speech Act, and there’s hope for New York to be the 18th.
Deputy Director of the Media Relations Team at Teens for Press Freedom, Fabiha Khanam, states that “It is necessary for younger audiences to learn the power and control they have over their lives and how it affects the world we live in. Adolescents are our future and they should have the right to protect themselves from the contamination of prejudice. The Student Journalist Free Speech Act enables students to publish without intervention which prevents strong bias and censorship from taking place. Spreading awareness through advocacy days further engages students to take charge of their future.”