California Education Code 48907

Albert Einstein once said that  “the strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it.” Indeed, in the 239 years since its creation, the highest law of the land has been both more clearly defined and vehemently defended. Everyday, the first amendment protects our right to report, to question, and to criticize, not only in the confines of our thoughts, but in any public forum of our choice. As a practice, journalism utilizes the first amendment to its full potential: after all, the goal of every journalist is to find out more and report more.

Free speech in high school journalism, though distinctly less glamorous, is no less important. In the tumultuous decades of the 60s and 70s, it was high school newspapers that fueled campaigns such as the infamous anti-war movement, and it was high school newspapers that were often stifled. Perhaps as a direct result of such events, California Education Code 48907 was signed into law in 1977. Unlike in most other states, the law gives high school publications in California the same rights as professional media. Unless content is “obscene, libelous, or slanderous,” it is protected by free speech and freedom of the press and cannot be censored or restrained.

As a publication, the Panther Prowler understands that the right of free speech is both a great power and a great responsibility. Our role as members of the community is not forgotten to us, but the goal of the publication is to responsibly and journalistically continue to write about things that matter to the students for whom the publication exists. We are truly by the students and for them.

However, it is not just school publications in California that enjoy such extensive free speech protection. All public students have been afforded these rights in a world of many who have not, so it is time for you — for all of us — to use them.  It is time to make ourselves heard and bring about substantial change in the world we live in. Even if it is not writing in the newspaper that interests you, 48907 extends to fliers, to clothing, to buttons and badges and the black boxes painted on the walls. So discuss your concerns. Support your causes. Advocate for whomever or whatever you choose. Do it unfalteringly, because 48907 protects you.