Renewing Free-Speech Values Through Educational Practice

By: Frank Lo Monte  

For the past thirty years, the American legal system has recognized a greatly diminished level of free-speech protection in public schools and colleges. Diminishing regard for, and observance of, First Amendment values in school has lasting consequences for the development of inquisitive, participatory citizens. Research by Profs. Bobkowski and Belmas (2016) documents the systematic institutional censorship of student voices addressing issues of social and political consequence in the school setting, with particular impact on the willingness of female students to engage on issues of public concern. This discussion will take stock of the free-expression landscape in American K-12 schools and examine best educational practices for modeling participatory citizenship. We will examine and evaluate the "New Voices" reform movement that has led to the enactment of statutory protection for student expression in fourteen U.S. states, and how those statutes affect the civic culture of educational institutions.

First Amendment, Press Freedom, Student Voice, Free Expression, Student Rights
2019 Special Focus: The Future of Democracy in the Digital Age
Focused Discussion

Frank Lo Monte

Professor, Journalism, University of Florida

Frank D. LoMonte is a graduate research professor of media law at the University of Florida, where he directs the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, a think-tank devoted to improving the public's access to information of civic usefulness. At Florida, LoMonte teaches an advanced legal seminar, "Law and Ethics of Social Media," that he developed. Before joining the University in 2017, LoMonte spent a decade as national director of the Student Press Law Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that provides free legal services in support of student journalism at the college and K-12 levels. LoMonte is a practicing attorney with a J.D. (magna cum laude) from the University of Georgia School of Law, where he served as the inaugural Otis Brumby Distinguished Visiting Professor teaching media law. He practiced corporate law with one of the nation's largest firms, Sutherland LLP (now Eversheds Sutherland) and held judicial clerkships with federal judges at the district and appellate levels. Before becoming an attorney, LoMonte was an investigative reporter and political columnist for daily newspapers in Florida and Georgia, for which he covered three U.S. presidential campaigns. His scholarly work has been published in the First Amendment Law Review, American University Law Review and many other jornals, and he is a frequent opinion columnist published in outlets including The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Houston Chronicle and The Seattle Times. For his work as an advocate for press freedom and open government, LoMonte has been recognized with numerous awards including the American Library Association's "Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor." In 2017, honoring his service to the field of student media, the College Media Association announced the creation of the annual Frank LoMonte Award recognizing a person in college journalism who has displayed extraordinary ethical courage.