Plainfield High School students fight back after newsmagazine is scrutinized

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind–Students at Plainfield High School are voicing their support of legislation aimed at protecting student journalists.

House Bill 1016 provides freedom of speech and freedom of press protections for students in grades 7 through 12 and state college student journalists.

On Thursday, Plainfield High School student Anu Nattam, who is the co-editor of Plainfield High School’s Quaker Shaker newsmagazine, spoke before the House Committee on Education in support of HB 1016.

Plainfield High School junior, Anu Nattam testifies at the Statehouse.

In October, the newsmagazine staff released a special edition of the magazine, ‘Plainfield High School’s Dating Survival Guide,’ which focused on things like dating safety and long-distance relationships.

The special edition released in October, “Dating Survival Guide”.

The newsmagazine placed in the ‘Top 10 Best of Show’ at the National Scholastic Press Association convention, garnering 7th place for its special edition.

However, before receiving the award, the newsmagazine was a cause of debate at the high school.

Nattam said when the special issue was first distributed, some students and parents started complaining that the newsmagazine was “inappropriate”.

“People were saying very negative stuff that was pulled out of context,” said Nattam. “We were really surprised to see how people were perceiving it, especially people in the school corporation.”

Since the release of the ‘Dating Survival Guide’ edition, Nattam said the newsmagazine is now under prior review. School administrators review the newsmagazine before it’s published.

A page of the magazine that caused controversy at Plainfield High School.

In a written statement, Plainfield Community School Corporation said, “It has been customary for the newsmagazine to be reviewed by the high school principal or designee prior to being sent to the printer. In recent years, while some suggestions have been offered, no topics have been denied. Contrary to many reports, the students have not been punished, and the publications class is not being eliminated. There was no censorship.” See the full statement here.

On Thursday, Nattam stood before members of the Education Committee to share her experience and voice her concerns.

“There are so many people in the state and in the country who are going through the same thing that I am,” said Nattam. “It’s not fair that because I’m a student journalist that I don’t get the same protections and freedoms that a professional journalist does. I think those freedoms and protections should be extended to student journalists as well.”

On Nov. 21, House Bill 1016 was filed by Rep. Ed Clere (R-New Albany) and co-author, Rep. Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis).

The bill would take the control of content away from school administrators and put it in the hands of students.

“This bill simply provides protections for student journalists,” said Rep. Clere. “This is the 30th anniversary this month of the US Supreme Court decision that made this legislation necessary. The decision Hazelwood v. Kulhmeier was decided in January of 1988 which gave school officials broad authority to censor student media.”

Members of the Education Committee discuss HB 1016.

Rep. Clere said the committee voted for an almost identical bill last year that died in the Senate.

Thursday’s hearing was standing room only with a large number of student journalists and journalism teachers sharing their support of HB 1016.

The bill passed out of the Education Committee 9-2.

Members of the newsmagazine staff at Plainfield High School.