28 schools awarded 2024 First Amendment Press Freedom Award

28 schools awarded 2024 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 28 First Amendment Press Freedom Award schools for 2024, the highest ever number of recipients. The committee hopes the number keeps going up in future years as more and more schools and their districts recognize the value of a free student press. 

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 24th 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. Schools who won the award the previous year had a more streamlined process in Rounds 1 and 2, but if any of their advisers or supervising administrators changed, they went through the normal Round 2 process.

2024 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners are as follows:

  • Alton (Illinois) High School
  • The American School in London, United Kingdom
  • 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
  • Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, San Francisco
  • Denver School of Science and Technology: Montview High School, Denver
  • Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Missouri
  • The Harker School, San Jose, California
  • Harrisonburg (Virginia) High School
  • Horse Creek Academy, Aiken, South Carolina
  • Inglemoor High School, Kenmore, Washington
  • Kirkwood (Missouri) High School
  • Liberty High School, Lake St. Louis, Missouri
  • Loudoun Valley High School, Purcellville, Virginia
  • Lynbrook High School, San Jose, California
  • McLean (Virginia) High School
  • Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California
  • Mountlake Terrace (Washington) High School
  • North Central High School, Indianapolis
  • Reno (Nevada) High School
  • Rock Canyon High School, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
  • South Salem (Oregon) High School
  • Weir High School, Weirton, West Virginia
  • West Springfield (Virginia) High School
  • Whitney High School, Rocklin, California

Our 28 award-winners include seven first-time recipients: Alton (Illinois) High School; The American School in London, United Kingdom; Horse Creek Academy, Aiken, South Carolina; Inglemoor High School, Kenmore, Washington; Liberty (Wentzville) High School, Lake St. Louis, Missouri; Lynbrook High School, San Jose, California; and Weir High School, Weirton, West Virginia.

The committee was especially impressed with responses from the supportive school leaders.

Arvada High School principal Caroline Frazee said press freedom prepares students for their responsibilities as adults. 

“Our students are the future leaders for this city, state, and country,” Frazee said. “They’re ability to think critically, form opinions, and communicate their thinking is vital to our community.”

Adam Desautels, principal of first-time winner Inglemoor High School, linked his school’s support of press freedom to its larger mission.

“Our school is committed to raising up and encouraging student voice. A slogan of our student body is ‘we run this ship,’ as we fully believe that decisions made in the school as a whole should include student voice as a driving factor,” Desautels said. “Our school is decorated with student art, our schedule is made with student input, and our media programs are student-run. We’re really proud of the student voice and ownership within our school.”

Edgar Nelson, principal of another first-time winner, Liberty High School, connected his support of students’ press freedom to his military service.

“I strongly believe that students at Liberty High School have a freedom of speech right that is protected by the Constitution,” Nelson said. “I served approximately 10 years in the United States Army to defend our country and protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.”

The 28 winning schools will be honored April 4 as part of the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City.

Applications for 2025 will be available at JEA.org in the fall. First-round applications are due annually Dec. 15. 

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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