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Publications statewide must stand behind First Amendment

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Publications statewide must stand behind First Amendment

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The Echo will stand by all published material, regardless of student or administrative backlash.
Our policy states that the Echo is a designated public forum for student expression. The newspaper’s intention in creating this policy, over 15 years ago, was to show that all voices must be heard, and that remains true.

According to the American Press Institute (API), 67 percent of millennials are twice as likely to view information supporting their established beliefs than information which doesn’t.
The API also found that 88 percent of millennials receive news occasionally from Facebook. There are 83.1 million millennials currently in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That means millions of people will be impacted by what they read on social media every day they use it.

Additionally, people are more resistant to new points of view when their own ideas are associated with political, religious or ethical values, according to a study led by Dolores Albarracín, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, and William Hart, a researcher at the University of Florida.

Despite the natural inclination to enclose ourselves in a bubble, students everywhere must resist. Without open-minded conversation and dialogue, change cannot occur. We believe one of our roles as a key news source in this community is to facilitate such discussions. Instead of harassing or shaming others for their beliefs, students must promote education and conversation. A democracy does not work when we bully those who have opinions different than our own.

Without open-minded conversation and dialogue, change cannot occur.”

As a news source, we acknowledge the impact we have on St. Louis Park and beyond. Because we have a platform, we strive to use it to promote the free exchange of ideas, opinions and beliefs — even if the opinion does not reflect the thoughts of everyone on our staff or of ourselves. Because we believe in the freedom to share our opinions, we must extend the same freedom to others. It is our duty to present all voices.

Limiting anyone’s First Amendment rights or placing blame on the Echo as a publication for allowing students to exercise this right defeats the purpose of free press. Our freedom of speech and expression is a right given to us in the Constitution.
We believe in the First Amendment and the rights it gives students within the schoolhouse, as defined in the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. That landmark case began a decades-long rallying cry against censorship and the ways it destroys democracy, pluralism and the Constitution.

However, in the 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, schools were given permission to allow prior review, where an administrator looks over a publication before it is released. Because of Hazelwood, Minnesota student newspapers could be subject to policies curtailing their rights. Student media remains at constant risk of censorship when school districts do not disallow prior review.

At Park, we are lucky to have not faced true censorship during our time on staff. Still, future student journalists need protection from others who may want to change the district’s longstanding tradition of noninterference with school publications. The first step remains a School Board-level policy, which would protect any student media from censorship or prior review in the years to come.

Moving forward means looking at the bigger picture, too. Minnesota state representative Cheryl Youakim introduced a bill, New Voices, modeled after North Dakota’s recently passed law supporting the rights of student journalists. This bill must be enacted in order to ensure every student reporter in every high school in Minnesota experiences the same free press our staff does.

Pluralism does not mean comfortably surrounding ourselves with people who will validate and support everything we say. Democracy does not mean shutting down all ideas we may not agree with. The First Amendment guarantees the right of everyone to speak freely, and the Echo will continue to support that right.

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