OREGON — The Northwest Scholastic Press Association is running a direct-mail campaign that asks public school teachers and their students to contact their local legislators and request support for a recently introduced student press freedom bill.
The bill, HB 3279, was officially introduced March 13 by state Rep. Larry Galizio (D-Tigard) to protect both high school and college students from censorship under the same statute. It was recently assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it has 11 additional sponsors.
Northwest Scholastic Press Association Executive Director Frank Ragulsky said once the bill was officially introduced, his organization sent out a copy of the bill and a list of legislative supporters to its members, which consists of mostly high school and some middle school teachers and advisers. The letter suggests teachers contact their local legislators and also encourage students to write and send their own letters of support for the bill.
Galizio said Oregon does have one of the “broadest” state constitutional provisions protecting free speech, but wants to ensure that students are protected from community or administrative opposition to stories written on “sensitive” issues.
“We’ve already received a lot of feedback from advisers throughout the state who are in favor of the bill,” with only one negative response so far, Ragulsky said. He also said that many have expressed their gratitude for bringing the issue to their attention so they know what issues for which they should “get on the soap box.”
Washington has a similar bill that was introduced by Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines) in January and became the motivation for the bill in Oregon, according to Galizio.
With Oregon and Washington setting the stage, Ragulsky said he hopes others will be encouraged to approve state legislation.
“It’s been pretty quiet lately,” Ragulsky said. “If two states could pass something within a relatively close time span, I think that other states will follow suit.”
By Erica Hudock, SPLC staff writer