Four Burlington High School students published a controversial article over a year ago. Now, they’ve been awarded for their fight and victory against censorship.
“Journalism that’s done ethically, by the book is being criticized and is coming under fire,” said Julia Shannon-Grillo, senior at BHS.
Julia Shannon-Grillo, Jenna Peterson, Halle Newman, and Nataleigh Noble used a public records request to uncover accusations about the school’s former director of guidance, Mario Macias. When the editors broke the story in their student-run newspaper, they were quickly told by administrators to take it down.
“It was information that once we got, we knew it was something everyone should know,” said Jenna Peterson.
The girls decided to take a stand. They continued to circulate the article on social media with the headline ‘This article has been censored by Burlington High School administration’. They also consulted with legal experts, citing their rights under Vermont’s ‘New Voice’s’ law, which protects the First Amendment rights of student journalists.
“What we needed to do was set a precedent,” Shannon-Grillo said. “If we let this happen one time, it would just continue to happen.”
It also helped create a new media policy at the school. Saturday, Shannon-Grillo traveled to Washington D.C. to accept the Courage in Student Journalism Award on behalf of her co-editors. They say the experience has taught them the power of raising their voice and the real world impact students are able to make.
“It’s a really important time,” Peterson said. “Not just in journalism, but in the country right now for youth leadership.”