Opinion: Student Expression and the Specter of Censorship

In some areas of the country, high school journalists are facing backlash.


Ava DiGiacomo

Student journalism remains important in today’s day and age, especially as pressure increases on the freedoms of speech and press.

Ava DiGiacomo, Staff Writer

Every school year, countless articles are published on The Uproar. All of these articles are written by students working to find their voice. The importance of an outlet such as this is often overlooked when examining the scope of media impact.

Students have the ability to write about whatever they choose, as long as it fits within the guidelines of public school free speech. Whether it is the last album released by their favorite artist, a recent political headline, or the upcoming art show at school, high school journalism provides the opportunity to write about topics students are passionate about. The journalism room is one where students are safe to discuss and debate different ideas.  

Along with providing a creative and informative outlet, high school journalism proves to have intellectual benefits as well. A study done by the Newspaper Association of America Foundation found that students who participate in high school journalism perform better on a majority of the ACT components, get better overall grades, and are more successful in their freshman year of college.

A high school journalism class also simulates a work environment, introducing students to the world of working together, idea pitches, deadlines, and effective communication. Having a student-run base of ideas forms a stronger connection with the community by placing students in a vital role of communication.

However, the safety of high school journalism’s rights is at risk. This issue first came to light in 1969 in the case Tinker v. Des Moines. 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker brought together a group of students in 1965 to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. Initially, the action was deemed controversial, but the Supreme Court held a 7-2 vote, protecting freedom of speech for students. It was concluded that students do not shed their civil liberties once they enter school grounds.

In the 1988 case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, there was a debate on whether articles surrounding both teen pregnancy and the correlation between divorce and child development can be published in the school newspaper. The administration won the case and gained the right to censor content in student publications.

As legitimacy and boundaries of freedom of speech and freedom of press have becomes highly debated topics, it is becoming increasingly necessary that we prioritize the protection of high school journalism.  

30 years later, the issue of student speech has not faded. As we see a growing political divide in our country, there has been an increasing number of instances where politicians and community leaders have censored the media, and high school journalism is no exception.

In Nebraska, articles surrounding topics such as the history of Pride Month led to the shutdown of Northwest High School’s 54-year-old school newspaper, The Viking Saga

In California, a journalism teacher faced a three-day suspension without pay due to her refusal to withdraw a student article on district staff members who refused to follow the L.A. Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

In Utah, the editors of the student newspaper at Herriman High School were interested in the firing of one of the school’s well-liked teachers. During their investigations, proof of inappropriate conduct was exposed. When the students published the story, the district administration shut down their website

In an era of intense political division and distrust, it is urgently necessary that we prioritize the protection of high school journalism. Fear surrounding indoctrination, exposé journalism, and content that portrays the school or government in an unflattering light has brought the epidemic of censorship to a fever pitch. Therefore, remembering the growth opportunities that high school journalism provides is crucial to preserving the necessity of student expression. 


Editors’ note: All opinions expressed on The Uproar are a reflection solely of the beliefs of the bylined author and not the journalism program at NASH.  We continue to welcome school-appropriate comments and guest articles.