|Jessica Riegel, Sarah Queller|
1st Place ($250)
Jessica Riegel & Sarah Queller
Student Rights In Question Online
Westfield High School
Free expression lives online, right? Wrong. Just ask a couple of student journalists from Westfield High School, whose investigative reporting explained the rights and limitations of students' speech and privacy rights on the Internet.
In their article, Student Rights In Question Online (1.7mb PDF), seniors Sarah Queller and Jessica Riegel explored the boundaries of student freedom in cyberspace, particularly their rights regarding Internet postings, one of the most pressing free speech issues that young writers face today.
Their article, published in Hi's Eye, Westfield High's weekly newspaper, won Queller and Riegel the ACLU-NJ's 2006 Student Press Liberties Award.
"Sarah and Jessica's enterprising journalism exemplifies the kind of enthusiasm for the First Amendment that we hope to inspire in other high school students through this annual contest," says ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs.
Submissions to the Student Press Liberties Award are evaluated on the basis of informational value, writing quality, courage in publication, impact, value as investigative reporting and furtherance of interest in civil liberties. Queller and Riegel's submission snagged the highest overall score among 11 entries.
Kathy Carter, an editorial writer for The Star-Ledger and one of the contest judges, called their article "extraordinarily well written and organized." Associated Press reporter Wayne Parry called the piece "extremely well reported and written."
And Linda Stein, the legal reporter for The Times of Trenton, gave the story the highest scores possible for its civil liberties theme, story structure and style, and value as investigative reporting.
In their article, these high school journalists observed that "there is little legal consensus on how school officials can punish students for the content of their Web sites," though, the article went on to note, most courts rely on the Tinker v. Des Moines standard, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schools have the right to discipline a student whose actions or statements "materially disrupt" class work.
Their research included a survey of their classmates' Internet viewing habits and interviews with leading legal experts on Internet free speech.