Student Press Freedom Day will take place this year on Thursday, February 24. Created by the nonpartisan nonprofit Student Press Law Center (SPLC), this day celebrates the work done by student journalists across the country and advocates for the need to “support their independence without censorship or threat to their advisers.” 2022’s theme is “Unmute Yourself!” ALA and the Freedom to Read Foundation are organizational sponsors of this year’s event. The sponsorship is a natural fit for both organizations, due to the organizers’ advocacy for student journalists’ First Amendment rights and their fight against censorship.
About Student Press Freedom Day
This year, Scholastic Journalism Week takes place from February 21-25. Each day focuses on one theme, and Thursday is dedicated to Student Press Freedom Day. February 24 in particular is significant because it is the anniversary of the 1969 Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Tinker was a significant intellectual freedom case related to students’ rights to express themselves. In December 1965, a group of students organized to wear black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War. Several students were sent home as a result. A legal case followed, eventually reaching the Supreme Court with the goal of deciding whether or not the students’ First Amendment rights were violated. Ultimately, the court ruled 7-2 in support of the students.
The organizers of Student Press Freedom Day embrace the opportunity to use this anniversary to advocate for their freedom. Through a movement called New Voices, they aim to influence state laws protecting student journalists’ freedom and denouncing censorship. They also strive to bring awareness to self-censorship among writers, encouraging them to report important stories without fear of how they will be received by their classmates, teachers, and school administrators.
How to Get Involved
There are many ways for student journalists to become involved in Student Press Freedom Day. A variety of official events are scheduled during the next few weeks, and SPLC maintains a comprehensive list of how to take action in one’s own state. For students planning their own advocacy, the organization provides a list of talking points, as well as a toolkit with premade graphics. SPLC also provides a legal hotline for student journalists. As intellectual freedom issues find themselves increasingly in the news, especially surrounding students’ rights to read and access information, it is certainly a great time to empower young journalists to speak their minds.
Gretchen Kaser Corsillo (she/her) is the Director of Rutherford (NJ) Public Library and has worked in public libraries in a variety of capacities since 2003. In 2013, she received her Master’s of Library & Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She also holds a B.A. in Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Political Science from Ramapo College. Prior to working as a professional librarian, Gretchen worked in the marketing and legal fields; the latter, combined with her interest in writing, has made her a strong advocate for intellectual freedom.