SPLC welcomes final legislative approval of John Wall New Voices of North Dakota Act

Today, the North Dakota House of Representatives voted to accept the Senate amendments to House Bill 1471, the John Wall New Voices of North Dakota Act, which sends the bill to Gov. Jack Dalrymple, whose office has indicated that he plans to sign it. 

The New Voices Act protects the rights of journalists in public colleges and high schools from censorship, reversing the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 ruling in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, testified in support of HB 1471 at the invitation of the bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Alex Looysen (R-Jamestown), and released the following statement in response to the House’s vote:

“North Dakota has staked out a foresighted position of national leadership on an education reform that costs zero dollars. The New Voices Act will do more to improve the learning climate in North Dakota schools than any multimillion-dollar program could possibly accomplish, because it will empower young people to speak without fear about the issues of social and political concern on which they will soon be voting. The fact that the New Voices Act could pass with broad bipartisan support and with the enthusiasm of stakeholders including the leaders of North Dakota’s universities sends a message to the rest of America: this is the future. The near-total control over what students say and write legitimized by the Supreme Court in Hazelwood has conclusively proven to be a failed educational strategy, and after 27 years of this extremist social experiment on our young people, it’s time for every state to join North Dakota and say ‘enough.’ We are grateful to the many supporters who have made North Dakota a safer place for young people and their teachers, but especially to Prof. Steve Listopad of Valley City State University, to state Rep. Alex Looysen, and to the North Dakota Newspaper Association and its member publications. Each of them showed vision in trusting young people with a light hand of guidance in place of the heavy fist of censorship.”

Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been devoted to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment, and supporting the student news media in covering important issues free from censorship. The Center provides free information and educational materials for student journalists and their teachers on a wide variety of legal topics on its website at www.splc.org. Information about student press-rights laws is available on the SPLC’s website at http://www.splc.org/page/model and links to the laws are posted in the SPLC’s online law library, http://www.splc.org/page/law-library.