Three Honored with Courage in Student Journalism Awards

By: E&P Staff

Two high school newspaper editors who opposed a censorship policy and a former student newspaper adviser who resigned rather than submitting to censorship at her students’ paper have been honored with Courage in Student Journalism Awards this year.

The awards, currently in their fifth year, are given by the Center for Scholastic Journalism, the National Scholastic Press Association and the Student Press Law Center and are presented to students and teachers who advocate and support free press rights for students.

Seth Zweifler, current editor in chief of the student newspaper The Spoke at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pa., and Henry Rome, his predecessor, will share a $1,000 prize. Barb Thill, former adviser of the student newspaper The Statesman at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., will receive $1,000 to support student journalists at the school.

Rome reported in the student paper that a janitor at the local middle school remained on the payroll despite multiple criminal run-ins, including a bank robbery arrest. The article prompted the school administration to require that all student newspaper content be approved before publication.

Zweifler and Rome protested the decision, garnering support from alumni and using local media to advocate their position. The administration eventually dropped the requirement.

?These winners exemplify the sad fact of life that provocative, hard-hitting student journalism is often celebrated with retaliation,? Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte said in a statement.

In January 2009, Thill?s students working on the award-winning Statesman newspaper at Stevenson High School came under fire for publishing a package of articles examining the phenomenon of casual, often alcohol-fueled ?hook-ups? among teenagers.

The articles drove the administration to require that the paper be reviewed before publication, and in protest Thill resigned from her position as journalism adviser.

?She is the kind of teacher who prepared young people to be active participants in our democracy,? Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University?s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said in a statement. ?Her school cared more about its image than the truth. All of the students who are missing her training are the ones who ultimately suffer. Her courage and dedication has affected thousands of young people over the course of her career.?

The awards will be officially presented to the winners at the National High School Journalism Convention in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Nov. 14.

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