Three Fairfax County public schools — Chantilly High School, McLean High School, and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST) — are among nine schools nationwide — and the only schools in Virginia — selected as recipients of the 2020 First Amendment Press Freedom Award. This is the sixth consecutive award for Chantilly High, and the fourth award for McLean High.
The award is bestowed by the Journalism Education Association (JEA), the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA), and Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society.
The First Amendment Press Freedom Award recognizes 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.
TJHSST principal Ann Bonitatibus said, “As principal, I am a staunch defender of student voice. I expect student journalists to take an ethical and balanced approach to reporting. Our journalists have had broad latitude to write/broadcast content of their choice: walkouts, dissatisfaction with administrative decisions, controversial topics such as mental health and gender identity, use of social media sites not recognized by the school, etc.”
As in previous years, schools competed for the title 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 the principal and all media advisers and one student editor per student media. Media staffs also submitted their policies.
The schools will be honored April 16 at the opening ceremony of the JEA-NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in Nashville.