“Student Press Freedom Day” worthy of acknowledgement

Sophia Comas, Online Editor-in-Chief

I’m not usually reminded of how grateful I should be to live in Kansas, yet every now and then, something brilliant smacks my face and says, “Sophia, you should be thankful.”

So should you. Because we live in Kansas, I have the ability to write these words. I have the ability to voice whatever my heart desires within the legal bounds of student journalism, and not a single teacher, administrator or government official could stop me.

Of course, it would be delightful if every student journalist could feel gratitude such as mine. However, they can’t — the Student Press Law Center wants that to be abundantly clear.

The special thing about Kansas is that we have “New Voices” legislation. More specifically, we have the Kansas Student Publications Act. Through these laws, myself and every other student journalist along with their advisors are protected from pointless things like censorship, prior review and prior restraint. These laws expands the 1988 Supreme Court decision of “Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier,” a landmark case that determined that student newspapers were not public forums, and therefore, not protected by the First Amendment. Deemed “shameful” by the SPLC, this case and its consequences caused organizations like the SPLC to create “Student Press Freedom Day,” which is this Wednesday. 

It’s my hope that all of you acknowledge it.

With this day comes the weight of everything educators and students alike did before us to make New Voices possible. It comes with the efforts of “The Spectrum” at Hazelwood High, who fought their way to the national government and said, “This is wrong.” It comes with the 36 other states who are still fighting, hoping that one day their efforts mean as much to the future generations as Hazelwood’s do now. 

It’s important for everyone to understand the impact of student journalists. That’s why Wednesdays theme is “This is What Student Press Freedom Looks Like.” 

It looks like this. 

It looks like a kid pointing a camera at another student being held down by police at a public protest. It looks like reporters sitting at their school board meetings with notebooks and pencils, scribbling furiously because that important vote is about to happen and it would be almost a crime to miss it. It looks like the tired boys and girls who put the blood, sweat and tears into work that will hopefully change the world. 

But we can’t change the world alone. Our work is published in the hopes it makes an impact, yes. However, it only makes an impact if you — the reader — choose to acknowledge it. For all I know, my words are lost among youthful ears that choose not to listen. Or maybe they’re not. It’s not up to me to decide that. You alone get to choose the actions you take. I just pray that mine can point you in a direction.

I am grateful to live in Kansas. I am grateful to have the support of my peers and my adviser. I am grateful to have the support of my administrators and teachers. I am grateful for the SPLC and “Student Press Freedom Day.” Most of all, I am grateful for you. 

You alone can choose. You alone can make a difference. I no longer need your voice to fight for my freedom. But others need you to fight for theirs. Speak up about the injustices student journalists face and join the SPLC in spreading the work these journalists do.

I choose to fight for them. What will you choose?