The Washington state student pressfreedom bill, introduced in January, was passed Jan. 31 in a judiciary committeeexecutive session by a 7-4 party-line vote without a proposed amendment toexclude high school students.
The next day, the state’s largest dailynewspaper, The Seattle Times, published an editorial urging lawmakers tovote against law, which would provide free press protection to the state’spublic high school and college student media.
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Readthe SPLC response to The Seattle Times editorial:
SPLCView: The good news: the Washington student free press bill is still alive.While the straight party-line vote was disappointing — and puzzling (freespeech, which protects speakers of all political persuasions, should not be apartisan issue) — at least the process continues to move forward. The badnews: The biggest obstacle at this point is probably not the schooladministrator’s lobby, but some professional media peers. We would have hopedthat more members of the commercial press would have learned something in thenearly twenty years following so many of their editorials back in 1988 thatsupported the Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision. During that time,heavy-handed administrative censorship of America’s high school student mediahas become a standard practice at an unacceptable number of schools.Fortunately, some major news organizations — and a number of nationaljournalism groups, such as the American Society of Newspaper Editors —have seen Hazelwood for what it is and have been supportive of efforts torestore some balance to the law. But others hold steadfastly to the idea that apublic school principal — a government official — should have thesame powers as their own private publishers and be permitted virtually uncheckedauthority to control what students can and cannot say. Such thinking is legallyunsound (and not even an accurate reflection of the Hazelwood decision),short-sighted and dangerous. As studies have shown, far too many of ournext generation of citizens and leaders have little or no understanding of whata free press means and, likely, little inclination to stand in its defense.Civics education — in theory and practice — is desperately needed.Unfortunately, it appears the teaching still needs to take place with someeditorial writers who we would have hoped, by now, would be teachersthemselves.