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SPJ honors Grace Marion with Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award


Matthew Kent, Program Coordinator, 317-920-4788, mkent@spj.org
Ashlynn Neumeyer, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-361-4133, aneumeyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is pleased to award Grace Marion with the Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award. The award honors an SPJ student member who has demonstrated outstanding service to the First Amendment through their work in journalism.

Marion experienced extreme restrictions as editor-in-chief of Neshaminy High School’s student newspaper, The Playwickian, after the school’s administrators enforced a new policy. The young journalist lost more content to prior review in this two-year time period than any other editor in its nearly 90-year existence.

During her time at the Langhorne, Pennsylvania, school, Marion and other newspaper staff endured many acts of repression from students, staff and administrators. Students made public threats on social media toward newspaper staff, and one teacher discussed failing Marion because of a previous editor’s decisions. An administrator even went so far as to outing LGBTQ+ writers to their families when they disagreed about chosen topics.

Marion challenged these injustices. She emailed the Student Press Law Center about legal action, attended National Scholastic Press Association meetings, wrote about any topic she wanted and encouraged the newspaper staff to do the same. By the end of her senior year, she had been in contact with SPLC representatives about The Playwickian’s situation for years.

As a sort of retaliation for what the students went through, instead of a traditional farewell, the newspaper staff published an in-depth report in the paper’s graduation issue. This report took Marion almost two years to create and revealed the school’s unethical mishandling of sexual abuse among students and teachers. The work also shared Marion’s declaration to boycott graduation her senior year because of this and more.

Today, Marion advocates for free speech as a voter, SPJ chapter leader and student journalist. She has also spoken at three NSPA/Journalism Education Association conventions about the importance of free speech, and has written about these issues in several publications.

Marion was accepted into the University of Mississippi journalism school on full-scholarship. In April, she won the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation’s First Amendment Award in the journalism category for 2019.

Marion will be recognized at the Student Union held during Excellence in Journalism 2019, Sept. 5-7 in San Antonio.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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