Student Press Law Center Seeks to Raise $3.75M for an Endowment

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(AP) The Student Press Law Center, which helps high school and college journalists with First Amendment and censorship issues, announced a drive to raise $3.75 million to create an endowment.

Center officials said the announcement was timed to coincide with Sunshine Week, a national effort to raise awareness about the importance of open government.

Among the speakers were CNN “”American Morning”” anchorwoman Soledad O’Brien and Fullerton, Calif., former high school newspaper editor Ann Long, who was fired for publishing an article about two bisexual students and one gay student.

The deputy superintendent for the Fullerton Joint Union High School District said in January that Long was punished for violating the ethical standards of the journalism class and a state education code that prohibits asking students about their sexuality without parental permission.

Long, a senior at Troy High School, said she felt her punishment “”did not fit the crime”” and she had been unfairly singled out. “”But what could I do?”” she asked.

“”A student is always at the mercy of the school, especially for a high school student without a college acceptance letter in hand,”” she said.

Long said the Student Press Law Center provided her with knowledge and support. And the American Civil Liberties Union recently urged the school district to reinstate her.

O’Brien, an honorary chair of the fund-raising effort, said Long’s story “”should inspire all of us, as it does me and all journalists.””

The center, which provides free legal advice to students and school advisers on free press and freedom of information issues, said it fields about 2,500 requests for help each year.

Its roughly $500,000 annual budget pays for three lawyers, two administrative employees, an editor for its Web site and magazine, and nine interns.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a philanthropic foundation independent of the Knight brothers’ newspaper enterprises, has agreed to give $1 for every $2 the center raises, which means the center needs to raise $2.5 million to reach its goal. The center already has raised $1.3 million.

During Sunshine Week, which began Sunday, the American Society of Newspaper Editors has asked newspapers and media organizations around the country to cover issues relating to open government.

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