FCPS High Schools Honored for Press Freedom

School News
February 24, 2023

Three Fairfax County high schools—Chantilly, McLean, and West Springfield—are among 16 schools nationally that have been selected as 2023 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners. West Springfield is among four schools that were first-time award recipients. 

The award recognizes private and public high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content. The awards were announced on Thursday, February 23, Student Press Freedom Day.

A committee with representatives from the Journalism Education Association (JEA), National Scholastic Press Association, and Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society chose 16 First Amendment Press Freedom Award schools for 2023. 

Schools competed for the distinction by first answering questionnaires submitted by an adviser and at least one editor; those who advanced to the next level were asked to provide responses from an administrator, all media advisers and a student editor from each publication. In addition, semifinalists submitted their published district, school and media policies.

According to a JEA press release, the committee was especially impressed with responses from the supportive school leaders. McLean High School Principal Ellen Reilly linked her support of a free student press to larger pedagogical goals.

“I see our journalism programs as a great learning experience for students and part of that learning experience includes taking ownership of their work,” she wrote in her application. “As a result, the students learn 21st century skills that are part of Fairfax County’s Portrait of a Graduate goals, including collaboration, communication, ethical decision-making, critical and creative thinking and resilience. Supporting journalism students’ freedoms enables them to do their best work.”

The 16 winning schools will be honored on April 20 as part of the Spring JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco. Learn more in the JEA press release