Student voices are meant to be heard

In the past four years, something interesting has happened to journalism. News has become more sensationalized, facts have become optional and the political spectrum has become more polarized than ever. It’s becoming harder to discern fact from fiction, causing confusion amongst the public.

Conejo Valley is not immune to these trends. Our school board meetings have turned into pit fights, lasting until 1:00 a.m., devoted to censure attempts of board members instead of focusing on the students. The tension is palpable, with liberals and conservatives unwilling to see eye to eye or compromise.

There are some that wish for our student voice to be silent, but it is important now more than ever for us to be heard. The role of the student journalist is to make the news of our school and community accessible to everyone, and the Panther Prowler will continue to do just that. Our goal is not to support one political agenda over another, or to only show the good side of our community, but to surface the truth and report the facts.

Facts are the pinnacle of journalism, and according to Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter, “that is the essence of democracy–open government; the press is a critical part of that, and if in the future we don’t have investigative reporters…we will live in a less democratic America.”

Throughout history, there have been times when the rights and responsibilities of the press have been questioned and challenged. In the 1960s, the Vietnam War led to conflicts between school publications and administration. Articles containing anti-war sentiments were censored, but students found a way to express their opinions with integrity. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1969 case “Tinker vs. Des Moines” that protected student expression did not stop at the schoolhouse gate. In 1977, California Education Code 48907 was written into law, guaranteeing students the same rights as professional journalists to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Under California Ed. Code 48907, student journalists are safe to voice their opinions and cover controversial issues without the fear of being censored. It is essential that high school journalists are able to cover uncomfortable topics that could be relevant to our student body, because it is in high school where we must learn to be adults and we must begin practicing life skills before entering the real world. 

The student editors of the Panther Prowler publication are the ones responsible for assigning and editing content, not administration or the journalism adviser.  Instead the adviser’s role is “to supervise the production of the pupil staff, to maintain professional standards of English and journalism and to maintain the provisions of (the Ed. Code 48907).” 

Just like the brave student journalists that came before us, it is our duty to cover the real issues that impact our community because our students have the right to know what is happening on their campus. 

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