Stuart Hall High School won the 2021 First Amendment Press Freedom Award on Feb. 26 for its record of supporting uncensored student voices in its student publications and school community.
“Congratulations,” Kristin Taylor, Scholastic Press Rights Director for the Journalism Education Association, wrote in an email on behalf of The First Amendment Student Press Freedom Award Committee, which includes members of the JEA, the National Scholastic Press Association and the Quill and Scroll Society. “I am pleased to inform you that BOTH Convent of the Sacred Heart and Stuart Hall have been selected as 2021 First Amendment Press Freedom Award recipients.”
Stuart Hall is one of few private high schools that has ever received this award.
“To me and to the other administrators, our job is way more about creating an environment where students can discover their talents and strengths than about flexing some sort of regulatory muscle,” Head of School Tony Farrell said.
The editors-in-chief of The Roundtable and “The Legend,” Stuart Hall High School’s student-run newspaper and yearbook, as well as adviser Tracy Sena and Farrell, answered two rounds of questions about the extent of students’ ability to publish without prior review from the administration.
“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,” according to the Journalism Education Association, one of the organizations responsible for selecting award recipients.
Under California Education Code 48907, public schools are required by law to guarantee students the right to determine the content of their publications. Since private schools are not government entities, they do not have to guarantee students their First Amendment rights.
“It’s important that there’s not journalistic review because it’s really important to establish a sense of independent journalism at the high school level, as that foundational element of journalism leads all the way up to professional news,” Farrell said. “As a leader, it means I have to just hold the discomfort that might come up from a particular issue.”
Stuart Hall delegates final content decisions for its publications to students, an approach that resonates with Goals 4 and 5 of the Goals and Criteria of a Sacred Heart Education, “the building of community” and “personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.”
“We can have confidence that the Goals and Criteria will influence student reporting and publishing,” Farrell said. “It’s about representing the community, recognizing the community and thinking of the community.”
Stuart Hall High School and Convent of the Sacred Heart will be featured in the Journalism Education Association’s awards ceremony videos on April 10.
“You can be proud your two schools are some of the few that truly show they value press freedom and what that means to democracy,” Taylor wrote.