Suggestions for New Voices testimony

If you plan to submit or present testimony when HB1529 and SB2608 have hearings, here is a template you could use. It is generic and could be made more impactful if you have personal experience of how being censored or  not being censored made you feel and/or impacts your ability to do your job as a journalist/adviser.

“I’m testifying in support of ________. My name is ____________________________________. I am testifying in my capacity as a  __________________. Civic engagement is vital to a functioning democracy. Young people who are civically engaged become adults who are civically engaged. Working on a school media outlet is a powerful civics lesson. However, under current federal law, school administrators can and do tread on the civil rights of student journalists through censorship. The Student Press Law Center receives thousands of requests for legal assistance per year from student journalists. Censorship sends the message that student voices don’t matter. There may be some concern that giving too much control to young people, but this law does not protect unprotected speech.  What it does is protect the rights and clarify the responsibilities of all those involved in journalism in public schools, the students, advisers, and administrators. Student voice matters. This bill is in direct support of Superintendent Kishimoto’s High Impact Strategy of valuing student voice. I respectfully request that you support this legislation and accept this bill in its current form to ensure student voice is heard.” 

HSJA has collected a few stories of outright censorship or situations that lead to self-censorship in Hawaii schools. Use them if you wish when talking to people about these bills.

  1. A high school administrator did not allow the student media to run a piece about the N-word. Here is the last sentences of that piece: “The n-word should always be a huge social taboo because of its historical origin and usage; however, society is beyond the point of that. If certain individuals want to continue using the word, then the general public must learn how to comprehend its given context to react in an appropriate manner.”
  2. A high school administrator didn’t want editorials published unless they were in Pro/Con format. Two that gave the adviser and staff the most difficulty: An editorial about how a student hates Thanksgiving and an editorial criticizing Trump’s Cabinet picks.
  3. A high school administrator asked the following questions during prior review with the adviser:  “Why is this phrased this way? Why is this article about things that Trump has done called a ‘quick and dirty run down’? Some of these measures didn’t pass so why report on them?  Why is this statistic phrased this way? Why is this the title of this article?”
  4. In a high school that has prior review, the administrator held on to the paper so long that the staff decided it was too late to send it to the printer, so they published it online only.
  5. A college newspaper didn’t cover an issue for fear it would get their adviser in trouble.
  6. A high school journalism adviser had been attending Hawaii Scholastic Jouranlism Association meetings which included discussion of New Voices legislation but stopped attending for fear of angering administration

If you have stories of censorship or self-censorship, please share them with us at [email protected] or, if you have 15-20 minutes to spare, complete our survey (regardless of whether you have faced censorship). It will give us a better view of the situation for student journalists and their adviers in Hawaii.