16 schools awarded 2023 First Amendment Press Freedom Award

16 schools awarded 2023 First Amendment Press Freedom Award

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 16 First Amendment Press Freedom Award schools for 2023. 

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 23rd 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 an administrator, all media advisers and a student editor from each publication. In addition, semifinalists submitted their published district, school and media policies.

2023 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners are as follows:

  • The Archer School for Girls, Los Angeles
  • Arvada (Colorado) High School
  • Brighton (Colorado) High School 
  • Chantilly (Virginia) High School
  • Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Rockville, Maryland
  • Denver School of Science and Technology: Montview High School, Denver
  • 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
  • Rock Canyon High School, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
  • South Salem (Oregon) High School
  • Wayland (Massachusetts) High School
  • West Springfield (Virginia) High School
  • Whitney High School, Rocklin, California

Our 16 award-winners include four first-time recipients: Arvada High School, Rock Canyon High School, Wayland High School and West Springfield High School.

The committee was especially impressed with responses from the supportive school leaders. McLean High School Principal Ellen Reilly linked her support of a free student press to larger pedagogical goals.

“I see our journalism programs as a great learning experience for students and part of that learning experience includes taking ownership of their work,” she wrote in her application. “As a result, the students learn 21st Century Skills that are part of Fairfax County’s Portrait of a Graduate goals, including collaboration, communication, ethical decision-making, critical and creative thinking and resilience. Supporting journalism students’ freedoms enables them to do their best work.”

“As principal,” Principal Greg Schellenberg of Mountlake Terrace High School, wrote, “I feel honored to work in a community that honors First Amendment principles. I see how these principles modeled by our student-run journalism extends to other corners of our school community. MTHS is an organization that respects student voice and will look to listen before acting.”

The 16 winning schools will be honored on April 20 as part of the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco.

First-round applications are due annually Dec. 15. Applications for 2024 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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