Reporter’s Notebook: How free should speech be?
Nicholas writes about free speech from his point of view.
At first, when I was interviewing the students of Palisades High School about the underground newspaper at their school, I was excited to see the students standing up for themselves. Though many students told me they didn’t approve of the content of the paper, the majority of the response was that the teachers deserved it. I felt sympathy for the students. They felt ignored and disrespected, and they were trying to put an end to the disrespect they were getting. "These are kids who don’t take anything from anyone," I thought. It was like an episode I saw on 90210 when the school did a walkout because they wouldn’t let Donna graduate because she got drunk at prom. I wished something that controversial and exciting would happen at my school. I thought the teens involved were very intelligent in a creative way, to actually put out their own newspaper.
My feelings for the OBJ changed when I interviewed Mrs. Janis Adams, an English teacher who was humiliated in the OBJ. I thought, How dare they? Those bullies picked on someone who did nothing to them but try to help them. My mother is also a teacher, and if someone did this to her, I would be raging mad. I know the students at Palisades felt frustrated by their teachers, and that is understandable. But after reading the article about Ms. Adams that had nothing to do with her teaching ability, I felt she was wrongly humiliated.
After writing this story, I realize the power of free speech. I see entertainers like Chris Rock and Howard Stern who get paid millions to push free speech to the limit. How come it’s OK for them to do it, but not a high school student? I still am in support of the 1st Amendment. If we all feared expressing ourselves, this country would not survive.
But the cowardly, insecure speech in the OBJ shocks me. Mrs. Adams is a vulnerable female and she has to walk around campus knowing that people find her a joke. I don’t think it’s OK for her to be harassed. That’s not right and I see why the students were punished for it.
I wish that the founding fathers had taken this into consideration when they wrote the Constitution. I wish that there were certain requirements on free speech, like don’t humiliate someone just to prove how far you can go. But if the founding fathers had made such rules, would L.A. Youth exist? Would I be writing this article?