Attorney and Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center Frank Lomonte visited a sophomore journalism class Sept. 30 to advocate for student press rights and to spread awareness for issues regarding First Amendment rights.
“It was really such a surprise, and it’s really prestigious that the national spokesperson for student press rights in the country would be able to drop by and talk to 20 young sophomore journalists on the spur of the moment without any advanced planning,” Upper School Communications Department Head Melissa Wantz said.
Lomonte’s organization exists to offer free legal assistance to student journalists who are having troubles regarding their First Amendment rights. SPLC helps set up volunteer lawyers and attorneys with students all around the country who face difficulties regarding censorship, prior review issues and any other cases in which students feel that school administrators or school boards are acting illegally.
Student journalists in California have greater publication rights than those from any other state. With few restrictions, the state education code gives high school students, including those in private school, the right to decide what to publish.
The SPLC hopes to raise awareness among young journalists about states that don’t offer the same freedom.
“It is important for everyone to know that a lot of states don’t have those same rights,” Wantz said. “Journalists in Idaho could want to run something in their school paper that the principal or head of school doesn’t want, and they would have no right to run it. A sense of inequity and unfairness can come across from one state to the next.”
Wantz hopes that over time Harvard-Westlake journalists will help to increase awareness of these issues and reach out to students in Los Angeles.