Washington legislator reintroduces amendment striking high schools from student free press bill

WASHINGTON — A previously defeated amendment to the Washington state student press freedom bill that would eliminate the protections for high school student publications from censorship was reintroduced this week. The protections for college press freedom would remain.

Rep. Jay Rodne (R-North Bend) proposed the amendment to HB 1307 early last month while it was being reviewed by the House Judiciary Committee because he said there is a legal difference concerning high school students that should be taken into consideration, referencing the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.

“The Hazelwood decision used the most deferential standard of review regarding those restrictions imposed on high school student newspaper publications,” Rodne said. “Schools can put reasonable restrictions because of their special status with respect to minor students.”

A major concern with including high school students in the bill is that he believes parents would also be “exposed” to liability, Rodne said.

Six states already have state laws protecting student press freedom similar to the Washington proposal, the last enacted in 1995.

State Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines) introduced the Washington bill in January, which passed the Judiciary Committee in February and was assigned to the Rules Committee. The bill cut-off date for state House bills to be passed to the Senate is March 14.

“The amendment would significantly reduce the scope of the bill,” Upthegrove said. “The most frequent and most flagrant problems with inappropriate censorship have been at the high school level. Our Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna supports the underlying bill, and conservatives in other states have supported press freedom for high school students.”

By Erica Hudock, SPLC staff writer

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