Student Press Law Center

  • Jan. 2019 – May 2019

I’d worked with the Student Press Law Center when I was the editor of The Vermont Cynic, the student newspaper at the University of Vermont. The resources and advice they gave us as we were embarking on some serious investigative stories stuck with me, which is a big reason why I wanted to work with them.

The center is the only legal defense organization solely focused on defending the First Amendment rights of student media.

I was probably the only journalist in the country who had a beat that covers threats to student media freedom nationwide. My sources were student editors, advisers, First Amendment lawyers, college administrators, student government officials and so many more.

Below are some of my favorite stories from my work at the SPLC.

In the midst of a student body presidential campaign, police are investigating trashed student newspapers

April 12, 2019 By Cory Dawson

A copy of the Rocky Mountain Collegian in a recycling bin at Colorado State University. Photo courtesy of Haley Candelario.

COLORADO — About 1,000 copies of the Rocky Mountain Collegian went missing April 9, and fingers are being pointed at a team running for student leadership who were the subject of a critical article published the day before the thefts.

The Collegian ran a story in its Monday edition that examined campaign spending discrepancies by Ben Amundson and running mate Alexandra Farias, who are running for president and vice president of the student body at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. By Tuesday morning, many papers had gone missing, and word quickly reached the Collegian newsroom. 

“We decided we were going to take action. So we submitted a police report,” said Haley Candelario, editor-in-chief of the Collegian. 

‘Go take pictures of birds’: Firefighter tells student reporters to beat it, refuses to give identification

April 5, 2019 By Cory Dawson

Emergency vehicles outside the health center at El Camino College outside Los Angeles. Student journalists were told to “go take pictures of birds” and were threatened with arrest while trying to report on the scene. Credit: Rosemary Montalvo / The Union

CALIFORNIA — A Los Angeles county firefighter threatened student reporters with arrest and repeatedly rebuffed them while they were trying to gather information on emergency crews on campus, according to the journalists.

Emergency crews, including police and an ambulance, appeared to be responding to a medical incident at the college’s student health center. A man was seen being taken into an ambulance on a gurney, said Kevin Caparoso, Roseana Martinez and Rosemary Montalvo. All three work on The Union student newspaper at El Camino College, a community college in Torrance, just south of Los Angeles.

The firefighter who was standing nearby the scene refused to provide reporters with any identification or any information, the reporters said.

They took to Twitter shortly after the incident to explain what happened to them.

PODCAST: New Voices advocates talk struggles and successes

March 14, 2019 By Cory Dawson

Since 1988, student reporters have lived under a Supreme Court ruling that gives school administrators vast control over what goes into their school’s newspapers.

Since then, students, advocates and media advisers have worked to put press freedoms for student journalists into law by passing New Voices laws in 14 states. These laws  protect student journalists from things like censorship, prior review or retaliation against their media advisers.

Now, in 2019, lawmakers have introduced New Voices bills in 10 states — a new record by our count. And although bills in two states — Hawaii and Virginia — have already been killed, bills in Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Indiana and New Jersey are moving through state legislatures, and a bill in Pennsylvania will be introduced soon.

Listen to the SPLC podcast on the successes and struggles of New Voices advocates across the country.