When I walked into the high school journalism room last Thursday, under the poster reading dare to speak, write and think was scrawled on notebook paper "except in the high school press--Supreme Court 1988."
Students had not taken their new status as second-class citizens in the United States passively. Trident, the school newspaper at Corona del Mar High School, whose staff I supervise, carried an editorial decrying the Supreme Court's decision to grant school officials broad censorship powers.
Although I had explained how California's statute protected student journalists from censorship except for material that is libelous, obscene or likely to cause substantial disruption, they had difficulty understanding why their right of free expression stopped at the California border--or, for that matter, at the schoolhouse door.
For 17 years I have wrestled with the question of how much press freedom students should exercise in high school, as I watched student editors decide whether to run a story on a classmate convicted of drug dealing, an administrator forced to resign over drunk driving or a class officer suspended for embezzling school funds. I have held editors accountable for editing such sensitive topics as teen sexuality, suicide, child abuse, AIDS education and California's recent abortion decision. Granted both freedom and responsibility for what they write, editors have deliberated, agonized and even shed tears in an effort to balance human compassion against the "public's right to know."