North Dakota Testimony

“Passage of this bill is important for at least two reasons. The first is self-evident: Freedom of the Press is an essential component to any free society, and the tenants of that principle should not be threatened or controlled by any institutional power. The age of the journalist is irrelevant, and it’s hypocritical to teach the value of Freedom of Expression within any school that doesn’t extend that policy to its own students. The second reason is symbolic: Expediting this bill into law would illustrate North Dakota’s aggressive commitment to personal freedom and constitutional adherence to the rest of the nation.” — Chuck Klosterman, 1990 graduate of Wyndmere High School, 1994 graduate of the University of North Dakota, author, and ‘The Ethicist’ for The New York Times Magazine (Read full testimony here).

“By not allowing student journalists the opportunity to publish what they have researched, we are not only taking from them their first amendment rights, but we are not allowing them precious work and civic experience. The best way to turn a student or employee off from their dreams is by breaking their spirits.” — Baelee Butts, senior at Valley City State University & general manager of the student media organization at VCSU (Read full testimony here).

“The freedom of speech and First Amendment rights allow us, as student journalists, to practice what teachers like to term “workforce readiness skills,” which include leadership, responsibility, and decision-making. Yes, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. Nobody’s perfect. But mistakes are how we learn. If we are expected to step into a job without real-life practice, the results will not be up to par with those who have practiced. The more experience we have practicing the skill we need, the more prepared we will be to join the workforce.” — Faith Harron, sophomore at Century High School and reporter at the Bismarck Tribune (Read full testimony here)

“Today, you are going to hear from a variety of stakeholders in support of HB 1471 — The John Wall New Voices Act. You are going to hear from journalism advisers and their students. You are going to hear from professional journalists. You are going to hear from national leaders and experts on the subject. And the reason you’re going to hear from us is because we can speak to you–that’s the First Amendment in action. But not all North Dakota students are as lucky as those in this room. Not all students in this state are allowed to speak to you. Not more than three weeks ago, I called a high school newspaper adviser in our state to let them know about the John Wall New Voices Act. I had hopes that the adviser would be able to share the information with the students and that, at the very least, the students would be interested in doing a story on the bill. I barely got through the first sentence when I was cut off. The adviser told me the students working for that particular newspaper in that particular school district could not report on anything political. That could’ve been the end of the conversation. But I, and the rest of the supporters of the John Wall New Voices Act, will carry on that very important conversation right here, today.” — Steve Listopad, assistant professor of journalism and student media director at Valley City State University and previously at the University of Jamestown (Read full testimony here)

“Reversing the impact of the Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood ruling merely restores the sensible balance that existed before 1988–the standard set by the Court in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1968). Under Tinker, the school may prevent or punish speech that threatens a “substantial disruption” of school activities — something more than just a strong exchange of differing opinions.” — Frank LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center (Read full testimony here)

“In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court had the final say. It ruled by 7-2 that students in public schools do have free speech rights, and that students – and teachers – do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the school house gate.” It was a landmark ruling, a vote of confidence in students everywhere. Some people predicted that the ruling would be a disaster, that students would abuse their rights and cause havoc in schools. But no such thing happened.” — Mary Beth Tinker, free speech activist known for her role in the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District Supreme Court case (Read full testimony here).

“In my time in the classroom, I have witnessed students reach extraordinary goals because they strive to show their community members the unbelievable stories existing around them. Students have covered presidential candidates, national figures, popular bands, controversy, heartache, success and everything in between. They have covered these events because they are passionate about providing readers with important stories — and opportunity that more students around the state would have with the passing of the John Wall New Voices Act.” — Jeremy Murphy, Publications Adviser at West Fargo High School (Read full testimony here)

“I have felt that providing an education in the field of journalism–where students are preparing for the real world–requires freedom of expression in the policies of the University’s media. How else are these young journalists to prepare themselves for the responsibilities of the press in later life if they do not begin in college? We have a University motto of “light and truth”; it is not possible for me as President to think that I, and I alone, know the truth that is fit to print. Even if we dislike or disagree with students’ opinions, we must stand in defense of their rights to freedom of the press in schools.” — Robert S. Badal, President of the University of Jamestown (Read full testimony here).

“Censorship produces sub-par journalists who can write a simple news article. Freedom from censorship produces journalists who are passionate in reporting a story that inspires its readers through sharing the experiences and words of others.” — Brittany Rheault, student journalist at the University of Jamestown and former Head Editor of The Packer newspaper at West Fargo High School (Read full testimony here).