Oregon student free press bill signed into law

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) signed a bill July 13that became the first state law in the country to protect both high school andcollege student publications under a single statute and the first measureenacted since 1995 that protects the free press rights of high school students.

The law, which affirms that “student journalistsare responsible for determining content of school-sponsored media,” passedby a vote of 16-14 in the state Senate and 29-16 in the House ofRepresentatives. It was first introduced in the House in March by Rep. LarryGalizio (D-Tigard), who modeled the legislation after a bill introduced inWashington State earlier this year.

Read the full story at:http://www.splc.org/newsflash_archives.asp?id=1575&year=2007

SPLCView: While not perfect, Oregon’s two-part law is an important victory forthe state’s student media and should go a long way toward making schoolofficials think twice before engaging in some of the more senseless acts ofcensorship we’ve seen over the years.

As with existing student free press laws in otherstates, the first part of Oregon’s statute limits the effect of theSupreme Court’s Hazelwood ruling on high school students andestablishes legal limits on student speech that are more clearly defined andmore easily understood by both students and school administrators.Unfortunately, lawmakers chose to remove protections for advisers and liabilitylimits on school districts that were in the original bill.

The second part of the Oregon law protects the freepress rights of Oregon’s college student media. Again, there was someunfortunate tinkering with the legislation in the final stages and language wasremoved that had declared all public college student media to be expressiveforums. But the law reaffirms by statute the First Amendment protectionscurrently enjoyed by the state’s public college student media and shouldeffectively insulate them from judicial threats such as the Hosty v.Carter ruling.

Statute: Chapter 763 (2007 Laws)(Signed July 13,2007).