GSSPA supports Pemberton High School against censorship

GSSPA Staff

By JOHN TAGLIARENI

The GSSPA Executive Board has voted to support the staff and adviser of the Pemberton High School newspaper, The Stinger, after their newspaper was censored and the students’ First Amendment Rights were violated by the unwarranted actions of their school administrators.pemberton

For background on this story, a link has been provided with permission of the Burlington County Times for an article written by Steven Hart and a link has been provided with permission of the Student Press Law Center, to an article written by Casey McDermott.

The GSSPA is very encouraged by the support of Phil Gianficaro, of The Burlington County Times,  who wrote an outstanding column, “This Policy Needs a Rewrite.” He expressed his support for the students at Pemberton High School and scholastic journalists nationally.The link to his column is also provided with the permission of The Burlington County Times.

The GSSPA actively promotes student press rights In New Jersey. Many students and advisers have had their rights violated, even though New Jersey State Constitution has one of the strongest First Amendment protections in the United States and a court precedent has upheld these rights.

The NJ Constitution and the precedent on the books, Desilits V. Clearview Regional Board of Education protects student journalists against the Hazelwood Decision. We hope that administrators will reconsider their positions when they understand the implications of their actions. As a number of legal experts from the SPLC have explained, NJ students could use this case in court and win.

In the case, the courts all ruled for a middle school student, Brian Desilits,  including the NJ Supreme Court. In that case, the principal invoked Hazelwood when he told the student that he could not publish reviews of two films, “Mississippi Burning” and “Rain Man,” because they were R rated movies. The court ruled in the student’s favor and noted that the school had no publications code, that students had written reviews of R rated movies in the past, that “Mississippi  Burning” had been shown in social studies classes, and that the film was also available in the school library.