North Dakota John Wall New Voices Act (2015)

In April 2015, North Dakota’s governor signed The John Wall New Voices Act, which ensures the free speech rights of journalism students in North Dakota public schools and colleges. The law passed unanimously in the state legislature and went into effect in August. The law was updated in 2017. 


NDCC § 15-10-55

§ 15-10-55. Student journalists—Freedom of expression—Civil remedy

1. As used in this section:

a. “Protected activity” means an expression of free speech or freedom of the press.

b. “School-sponsored media” means any material that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast by a student journalist at a public institution of higher education, distributed or generally made available to members of the student body, and prepared under the direction of a student media adviser. The term does not include any media intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classroom in which the media is produced.

c. “Student journalist” means a student of a public institution of higher education who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media.

d. “Student media adviser” means an individual employed, appointed, or designated by a public institution of higher education to supervise or provide instruction relating to school-sponsored media.

2. Except as provided in subsection 3, a student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media is supported financially by the institution or by use of facilities of the institution or produced in conjunction with a class in which the student is enrolled.Subject to subsection 3, a student journalist is responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media. This subsection may not be construed to prevent a student media adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to student journalists. A student media adviser may not be dismissed, suspended, or disciplined for acting to protect a student journalist engaged in a protected activity or for refusing to infringe on a protected activity.

3. This section does not authorize or protect expression by a student that:

a. Is libelous, slanderous, or obscene;

b. Constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy;

c. Violates federal or state law; or

d. So incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act, the violation of institution or state board of higher education policies, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the institution.

4. An expression of free speech or freedom of the press made by a student journalist under this section may not be construed as an expression of school policy. A school, school official, employee, or parent or legal guardian of a student journalist may not be liable in any civil or criminal action for an expression of free speech or freedom of the press made by a student journalist, except in the case of willful or wanton misconduct