A change to Kansas’s public high school free expression statute wasproposed Feb. 2 by state Rep. Don Myers (R-Derby) that calls for a three-personcommittee that could review student publication content before it ispublished.
Myers said the bill is meant to offer “older peer review” byadministrative and parental readers and still be “permissive” to studentexpression. Under the proposed amendment, the committee may exercise priorreview, but the ultimate decision on content is left up to the studenteditor.
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SPLCView: So as legal protections for student journalists step forward with theproposed legislation in Washington, there is an effort to step back in Kansas.The committees proposed by this bill are, at least on paper, purely advisory.Student editors would retain the right to publish otherwise lawful material.But, in SPLC’s experience, prior review committees typically end up turning intocensorship committees. It’s also our experience that “advisory” committees areonly as good as the members who make it up: the committees proposed here wouldnot include anyone with actual journalism experience. Furthermore, the sponsorof the bill refuses to provide the specifics of his reason for proposing thechange. From where we sit, the Kansas student free expression law, enactedin 1992, has worked extremely well for both students and administratorswho have a clearer understanding of where the legal lines aredrawn.