Four Years In

North Dakota NVA advocates prepare to take their victory photo after Gov. Dalrymple signed their bill into law in April 2015.

The full story of the New Voices Movement is long, full of plot twists, protagonists and antagonists galore – stretching all the way back to 1969 and Mary Beth Tinker’s black arm band.

I’ve had the pleasure and honor of being closely involved with this movement to legislatively counteract Hazelwood, to protect colleges from Hazelwood creep, and to extend First Amendment rights to students at private colleges. In 2013, my students at the University of Jamestown wrote what came to be known as the John Wall New Voices Act of North Dakota – the namesake for our national movement.

In 2015, North Dakota’s legislature passed the bill unanimously (with a few amendments and concessions), and ended 10-year drought since Oregon’s 2005 victory. North Dakota was certainly not the first state to pass legislation restoring, protecting and extending student press rights. It was the eighth, in fact, to restore the Tinker Standard for student journalists at public high schools after the disastrous 1988 SCOTUS Hazelwood decision. It was the fourth to protect public college student journalists from Hazelwood creep. And in 2017, it may be the second to extend student press protections to student journalists at private colleges and universities.

Today, as North Dakota nears the start of another legislative session to correct some of our misfires of 2015, I want to personally invite you to join our new weekly blog. You’re hopefully celebrating the holiday season with friends and family as this post arrives. So am I. I am so grateful for the support my wife, son, family and friends have given to this cause. We just witnessed a terrible year for professional journalism, and one certain way to create a better environment for journalism is to fix the educational problem Hazelwood created. For nearly 30 years, we have been training our young journalists to place the PR needs of authority over their own constitutional rights. Bending to authority is a learned trait and it doesn’t just disappear when a diploma is issued. Or as someone very important to our work once told me, “We have trained generations of journalists to take no for an answer.”

My occasional blog will feature…

  • State and Federal Legislative Updates
  • Legal and Ethical Analysis
  • Stories from the Front Lines
  • New Strategies and Tactics
  • Legislative and Legal History
  • Profiles of People, Places and Events

If you have a suggestion for a story, contact me.

Thanks to all of you for joining us on this journey. Thanks to all of you that are working in your own states to protect student speech. I’m honored to be working with such an inspiring and innovative group of educators, professionals, students and advocates.