Student press supporters often claim that students “do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” At a recent national journalism education conference, I noticed a different version of this quote. Outside the schoolhose gate, students express themselves too.
Fourteen year old Malcolm Sutherland-Foggio, started a non-profit for pediatric cancer research after Malcolm watched his friends die next to him in the hospital. Malcolm and his mother brought the national angel quilt to Seattle, and coincidentally, were stationed at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. The journalism students and educators from JEA/NSPA would pass his table several times each day.
During the convention, I met with students from the Carlsbad High School Lancer Link. These students somehow operate inside the school gates with readers throughout the world. I was familiar with the publication before the teacher asked me to critique the publication. The students published several articles about a popular skate boarding location in Carlsbad, California.
The Seattle convention was titled “Journalism on the Edge.” Perhaps the title should have indicated to students and journalism educators that discussions would continue beyond the gates of the Emerald City. Many people are still discussing Dan Savage’s keynote presentation. Depending on who you ask, Savage spoke about social media, bullying, religion and the impact of the It Gets Better Project.
While many people will remember some convention controversy, I will remember Malcolm… alone with the quilt.