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The SPLC was founded in 1974. The Kennedy Memorial Foundation and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press created the center at the recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry into High School Journalism. The center became a separate corporation in 1979. It is the only legal assistance agency in the United States with the primary mission of educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment and supporting the freedom of expression of student news media to address issues and express themselves free from censorship.
Files amici curiae in cases where student media rights could be effected.
Operates an Attorney Referral Network of approximately 250 volunteer media law attorneys across the country who may be available to provide free legal representation to local students when necessary.
Maintains a free Freedom of Information Law Letter Generator that creates a public records request tailored to the law of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, for use by student journalists and others seeking access to public records.
Maintains a full-service news operation covering issues relevant to student journalism. The Center's journalists write online news stories about ongoing censorship and open-records controversies, and produce the in-depth SPLC Report magazine in print and online.
Presents annual awards to recognize student journalists, educators, and administrators that have shown courage in standing up for student press freedom.
The SPLC has advocated for the passage of "New Voices" legislation at the state level to protect student journalists' rights. The organization has promoted and funded Student Press Freedom Day on college campuses.
The organization tracks the theft of free newspapers on college campuses. The group considers the disappearance of the student newspapers as censorship by theft.
Governance and staff
The SPLC is run by an executive director and a board of directors composed primarily of attorneys, professional journalists and journalism educators. The current executive director, Hadar Harris, was named to the position in September 2017. The previous executive director was Frank LoMonte, who served from January 2008 until September 2017. He was preceded by Mark Goodman, who served from 1985 to 2007.
The SPLC is supported by contributions from student journalists, journalism educators, and other individuals, as well as by donations from foundations and corporations. On January 23, 2007, the SPLC successfully completed a three-year $3.75 million endowment campaign, spurred by a challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In 2017, the organization's total revenue was $763,920, as shown on IRS Form 990.