Hazelwood. What did it do to teachers? It put us in a state of fear.
How many times have we heard the horror story of a teacher simply fired or "reassigned" to another position (not journalism) within a district because they stood up for student press rights?
While I have been extremely blessed to be in a school district for the past 15 years that does not practice prior review, I know in the back of my mind that at any minute, thanks to Hazelwood, I could have a mess on my hands. While I support my students and firmly believe in student press rights, I think of the teachers I have seen over the years lose their careers in journalism, and I pray that will never be me.
The sad thing is, in what other subject area do teachers have that constant fear? Can you tell me that in an Algebra class a teacher fears possibly going to battle over teaching students how to properly do an equation? Thanks to Hazelwood, Journalism teachers always have that fear. "If I teach my students how to properly practice journalism, will I be punished?" Hazelwood has created a world in which that punishment isn't just a slap on the hand, it can be an attack on a career, on a person's livelihood, and much more.
If push came to shove, would I go to war to support my students' press rights? It's a question I ask myself. As I get closer to age 40 and my fight is a little "less" than when I was in my early 20's, I often ponder, "Am I strong enough to risk it all to protect my students' press rights when my own country can't even seem to?" It's a question I can honestly say I hope I never have to find the answer to, as for 15 years now I have been blessed with solid broadcast staffs, supportive administration, and a community that expects “Blue Jay Journal” to produce solid and sometimes controversial stories.
The bar has been set and it's my goal to never go below it just to appease the ones who would choose to silence a teen voice.
Michelle A Turner has been the adviser of Blue Jay Journal TV/Radio Production at Washington HS in Washington MO for the past 15 years. They have received regional, state, and national honors and accolades over the years, ranging from NSPA Best in Shows, STN Excellence Awards, and more. You can see more of their current content at www.bluejayjournal.com