Teacher Fights For Student Newspapers In Every Public School

A newspaper story board.

The musical chant, ‘Extra, Extra – read all about it’ may soon be ringing in every city public school hallway between classes.

As the NYC Schools kicked off their 2019-2020 school year today, one teacher at the City College Academy of Arts for grades 6-12 in Manhattan continuing on his goal to bring a student newspaper and student newspaper class to every city public school, with an acute focus on Brooklyn.

ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher and coordinator, Dennis Mihalsky, created and heads an organization dubbed “Students Disrupting,” a platform calling for comprehensive public education reform in New York City to give students a voice.  

Dennis Mihalsky

The organization collaborates with all modern-day education stakeholders to define what the goal of public education should be in the 21st century, a philosophy not based on the antiquated instruction methods and politics of centuries past.  Their first mission is to create, support, and sustain mandated, independent school news outlets within every NYC public school. 

“It’s about lifting the creative spirits and freedom of responsible expression of our young people, it’s about teaching journalism as a profession which protects the heart and soul of our democracy, and it’s about teaching those young people in a way that is interactive, cooperative, hands-on, and provides real-life experience invaluable to their futures,” said Mihalsky.

The idea came to Mihalsky after he successfully started a school newspaper at City College Academy of the Arts. The Academy felt the newspaper effort so successful they made producing the paper, titled “The Claw Weekly,” into a class all its own. Today, Mihalsky’s primary responsibility as a teacher is teaching that class.    

Two college student journalists from Brooklyn, including Executive Vice President, Stephanie Chu, of Bensonhurst, and Vice President of Development, Jelani Williams, of East New York have joined the team and the mission at Students Disrupting,

The front page to the first edition of The Claw Weekly.

“The concept is catching on quickly, especially in a world where institutions like the press are under constant assault by political forces which demonize the essential to democracy, and constitutionally protected profession,” said Chu, a marketing student at the Fashion Insititute of Technology.

Williams, a political science major at George Washington University in Washington D.D., not the idea to bring a student newspaper to every school might seem like a heavy lift, but it’s worth it.

“Some might call it crazy to aim so high, but with the first amendment under attack on a daily basis it would be crazy to allow students be silenced now,” he said.

The effort comes in an era when the profession of journalism itself is under such sustained attack, the statistics on which and how many public schools have student newspapers are perilously troubling, especially for Brooklyn:

  • 12.5% of New York City public schools have a school newspaper, while 87.5% do not.
  • There are 1,700 schools in NYC, 1,500 don’t have student newspapers.
  • Of the 1.3 million public school students in NYC, 1 million have no voice in school.
  • Brooklyn is last among the 5 boroughs of NYC in having public schools with newspapers.

“Brooklyn, our city’s most populous borough, is last among them in being home to public schools with newspapers. That has to change now. We can leave no borough behind,” said  Chu.  

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is holding the first fundraiser for Students Disrupting. It is slated for 7-9:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 26 at the Melville Gallery of the South Street Seaport Museum, 213 Water Street in Lower Manhattan.

For more information on the organization click here.