School recognized for First Amendment protection with Press Freedom Award


Holly Bill

Members of the Newsstreak pose for a photo in their staff merchandise. The Newsstreak editors make all final decisions of content for their publication. This is one of the standards for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award.

Harrisonburg High School has been named a 2021 recipient of the First Amendment Press Freedom Award. Given by the Journalism Education Association, the National Scholastic Press Association and the Quill and Scroll International Honor Society for High School Journalists, this award honors high schools that educate others on the importance of the First Amendment and offer student-run publications in which students make “all final decisions of content.

HHS is one of 14 schools across the nation to have been recognized with this award, with other Virginia recipients being Chantilly High School and McLean High School. The last time the school was a recipient was in 2017. 

Advisers and editors of the Newsstreak and TAJ Yearbook submitted forms indicating HHS’ protection of their student journalists’ First Amendment freedoms. There is no New Voices legislation in Virginia protecting student journalists from censorship, but HHSMedia still operates as a public forum for expression. This means that the student editors make all decisions about the content of their publications without prior review from administration. This is established in the HHSMedia staff manual. Online Editor in Chief Oziel Valdez assisted in the award submission process, and he is proud that HHSMedia was honored for operating as a public forum.

“Without the privilege of telling stories without censorship, we wouldn’t be able to help people,” Valdez said. “By telling hard-hitting stories that have meaning, we’re helping our community because our community reads [the stories] and learns about what’s happening.”




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