Grace Marion is the former Editor-In-Chief of The Playwickian, her school newspaper at Neshaminy High School in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. She receives a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award for fighting against an especially heavy regime of school censorship, where she saw about a dozen articles censored, and for her investigative reporting on the school’s lack of sexual misconduct records for its teachers.
After researching the story for an entire year, Marion was able to publish her final jaw-dropping article in the last Playwickian edition of her senior year at the school. The article exposed Neshaminy High for an alarming policy: it does not retain complaints of sexual misconduct in the personnel files of its employees. Rather, the school keeps the complaints with the records of the students bringing the charges, and then destroys them once the student graduates. Frank LoMonte, senior legal fellow at the Student Press Law Center said of Marion, “It’s really rare to see a high school journalist doggedly pursue public records, but Grace is that really rare student, and you’d expect nothing less from her. She has done an invaluable public service by bringing to light what seems to be, at best, a grossly negligent practice of recordkeeping by her school that runs the risk of letting serial harassers escape punishment.”
Marion joined The Playwickian as the Graphics Editor in her freshman year of high school. That summer, she wrote freelance for several small publications. Her work as a student journalist began to expose her to activism in the Native American community, and she began working with producers of the documentary The R-word.
In her sophomore year, Marion was named the Arts & Entertainment editor and she began working on investigative pieces. Marion became Editor-in-Chief in her junior year, under an advisor who oftentimes took the side of administrators when it came to censoring students. Multiple articles were prevented from being published in prior review and Marion contacted the Student Press Law Center several times until they found a local law firm willing to take The Playwickian’s case to court. She is still working with the SPLC’s lawyers to push the case forward.
Marion is currently a freshman at the University of Mississippi, majoring in journalism with a minor in Spanish. She attends the University as a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College on a full scholarship from the Stamps Foundation, in addition to receiving several scholarships from the University itself. In September 2018, she published her first book, Treading Water and Other Collected Poems and Short Stories, a compilation of poetry and short stories. She is currently reporting for the University’s student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian. She will be 20 years old in September.