17 schools awarded First Amendment Press Freedom Award for honoring free expression

17 schools awarded First Amendment Press Freedom Award for honoring free expression

By Kristin Taylor, MJE, Scholastic Press Rights Director

A committee with representatives from the Journalism Education Association, National Scholastic Press Association and Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society chose 17 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners for 2022. 

The award recognizes private and public high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content. Today, on Student Press Freedom Day, we honor those schools for their support of student voices. This is the 22nd year for the award.

As in previous years, schools competed for the distinction by first answering questionnaires submitted by an adviser and at least one editor; those who advanced to the next level were asked to provide responses from the principal and all media advisers and student editors, indicating their support of the First Amendment. In addition, semifinalists submitted their published media and school policies.

2022 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners are as follows:

  • The Archer School for Girls, Los Angeles
  • Bellaire (Texas) High School
  • Brighton (Colorado) High School 
  • Chantilly (Virginia) High School
  • Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Rockville, Maryland
  • Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, Lake Balboa, California
  • Denver School of Science and Technology: Montview High School, Denver
  • George C. Marshall High School, Falls Church, Virginia
  • The Harker School, San Jose, California
  • Kirkwood (Missouri) High School
  • Loudoun Valley High School, Purcellville, Virginia
  • McLean (Virginia) High School
  • Mountlake Terrace (Washington) High School
  • North Central High School, Indianapolis
  • South Salem High School, Salem, Oregon
  • St. Louis Park (Minnesota) High School
  • Whitney High School, Rocklin, California

Our 17 award-winners include six first-time recipients: Bellaire High School, Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, Denver School of Science and Technology: Montview High School, George C. Marshall High School, The Harker School and Loudoun Valley High School.

The committee was especially impressed with responses from the supportive school leaders. Susan Ross, principal of Loudoun Valley High School, described times when she experienced pushback from community members about “allowing” yearbook students to cover events such as the Women’s March on Washington in 2017, which she said is “something that we don’t shield the student editors from and something we use as a teaching tool as well.”

“I worked with the yearbook adviser and student editors on responses to the criticism,” she said. “Those responses settled and did not flame the criticism. It is, in part, because of our long, strong and nationally recognized publications programs that we enjoy considerable community support despite some who may disagree with student-generated content.”

“In the end, as principal,” Ross said, “I trust the staff we’ve hired to work deeply with students around the issues of protected speech to provide students with the skills, dispositions, and perspectives that are ethical, flexible, passionate about issues and respectful of all voices. Our track record so far tells me we are accomplishing what we’ve set out to do — teach excellence in our publications classes and teach that all voices matter in our broader school activities.”

The 17 winning schools will be honored on April 7 as part of the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Los Angeles.

First-round applications are due annually Dec. 15. Applications for 2023 will be available at JEA.org in the fall.

For more information about the First Amendment Press Freedom Award, please contact sprc@jea.org.

Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, promoting professionalism, encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.


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