NEFAC to Recognize Student Journalists from Burlington (Vt.) at Annual Awards Luncheon

Tickets to Feb. 15 Program in Boston Available Until Monday; ProPublica’s Stephen Engelberg to Receive Top Honor

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition will recognize a group of student journalists from The Register at Burlington (Vt.) High School next week during its annual awards luncheon.

The editors of the student-run newspaper used public records last year to break a story about their guidance director who faced disciplinary charges from the Vermont Agency of Education. When the students posted the story to The Register’s website, their principal demanded that the accurate article be removed.

Fearing that the school district would retaliate against their teacher/newspaper advisor, the student editors reluctantly removed the story but began a public campaign to fight the censorship. By appearing at city meetings, speaking to the media and working with press and First Amendment groups, the student journalists prevailed in their battle with the administration and reposted their story.

The School Board appointed the editors to a special committee to review the school’s student publication policies to assure that they conform to state and federal law. In 2017, Vermont had passed “New Voices” legislation as part of a national effort to protect high school and college journalists and their advisers from retaliation by school officials.

As a result of the students’ efforts, Burlington High School now has an updated policy that is designed to prevent similar censorship in the future.

The students will be recognized at NEFAC’s New England First Amendment Awards luncheon from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. Tickets can be purchased here.

During the luncheon, Stephen Engelberg of ProPublica will be honored with the Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award; the Hartford Courant with the Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award; and open government advocate David Saad with the Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award.

WCVB-Boston’s Janet Wu, a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors, is master of ceremonies.

WBUR-Boston is the luncheon’s primary sponsor. Other sponsors, table hosts and supporters include Roger Williams University, The Boston Globe, Boston University, Emerson College, Northeastern University and Boston 25 News.

The New England First Amendment Awards luncheon is part of the New England Newspaper & Press Association’s winter convention.

During the convention, NEFAC is sponsoring two sessions. The first, immediately following the luncheon, will be a college media roundtable discussion featuring several veteran journalists and media attorneys who will provide suggestions on how campus newsrooms can overcome challenges on their campuses. The second session is an all-encompassing presentation on Feb. 16 about what professional newsrooms can do to confront dangerous situations, including active shooters and other threats.

A full schedule and description of conference sessions can be found here.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include the Barr Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, The Boston Globe, WBUR and Boston University.