My students and I have contacted the SPLC legal hotline regularly during the 11 years I’ve served as adviser to Central Times at Naperville (Ill.) Central High School. Most of the time, we call with basic questions — but this fall we learned again how important SPLC is when everything is on the line.
In late October, my students published an accurate and sensitive investigation of the challenges that schools face when determining accommodations for students with special needs. The story reported on serious, even violent incidents that occurred at our school.
A quarter of the story was censored. And, instead of being distributed, the paper was locked away for 24 hours.
SPLC stepped up for these high school journalists, and for me.
I received timely, thoughtful and measured coaching that helped me navigate the stress of a threat against my job. An SPLC attorney looked at the uncensored story and editorial with my students, reinforcing that the best defense against censorship is good journalism.
In addition to giving important legal guidance, SPLC reported on the censorship by our principal and district administration, and helped publicize the situation while refuting the administration's claims that they could censor this story over privacy concerns. They helped us understand how the 2017 “New Voices” law that Illinois had adopted could help to protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists.
As we close the books on the “Year of the Student Journalist,” let’s recognize the help that SPLC provides — free of charge — to thousands of student journalists and their advisers every year.
While you never know when you might need help from the Student Press Law Center, there is peace of mind in knowing that they are always here for us.
I hope you will join me in helping to support SPLC and making a donation today.
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Keith Carlson, CJE
Adviser of Central Times
Naperville Central High School, Naperville, Ill.
JEA Rising Star Award recipient, 2013
ASNE Reynolds Institute recipient, 2013