The Canadian University Press board unanimously voted to endorse the Student Press Freedom Act (SPFA) on Wednesday, September 8. The campaign, started by Eric Hamber Secondary School (EHSS) students Spencer Izen and Jessica Kim, aims to protect freedom of expression and freedom of press in British Columbian public schools, centring the importance of constitutional rights for student journalists.
With the help of volunteering lawyers, Izen and Kim have drafted a bill intended to be passed by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and are seeking signatures on their campaign petition. The draft asserts that student journalists have the right to freedom of expression and of the press regardless of support — financial or otherwise — from a school or board of education.
Izen and Kim are editor-in-chief and managing editor, respectively, of the EHSS student paper, The Griffins’ Nest. The bill was born out their experience with censorship by their school administration regarding the Nest’s coverage of the Vancouver School Board’s (VSB) decision-making process and lack of inclusion of students and teachers. Right before the publication of their editorial criticizing the VSB in April 2021, the Nest masthead was informed by their vice-principal that the article would need approval to be published.
Considering this wasn’t the first time they’d heard concerns from school administration about their content, Izen and Kim initiated their campaign in June and are now recording censorship incidents and press freedom obstructions from public schools across Canada. They’ve also received endorsements from the Student Press Law Center, Centre for Free Expression, British Columbia Youth Council and the Youth Political Assembly.