After passing the Illinois legislature with unanimous support, the Illinois Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act was signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on July 29, 2016. The law provides that student editors are responsible for the content of their media. School officials can intervene only when the content falls within specific categories of unprotected expression.
The Illinois College Campus Press Act, passed in 2008, protects student journalists at public colleges.
105 ILCS 80 (public schools)
AN ACT concerning education.
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:
Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act.
Section 5. Definitions. As used in this Act:
“School official” means a school’s principal or his or her designee.”
“School-sponsored media” means any material that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast by a student journalist at a public school, distributed or generally made available to members of the student body, and prepared under the direction of a student media adviser. School-sponsored media does not include media intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classroom in which the media is produced.
“Student journalist” means a public high school student who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media.
“Student media adviser” means an individual employed, appointed, or designated by a school district to supervise or provide instruction relating to school-sponsored media.
Section 10. Free speech. Except as otherwise provided in Section 15 of this Act, 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 school district or by use of school facilities or produced in conjunction with a class in which the student is enrolled. Subject to Section 15 of this Act, the appropriate student journalist is responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media. This Section shall not be construed to prevent a student media adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to student journalists. There shall be no prior restraint of material prepared for official school publications except insofar as it violates Section 15 of this Act. School officials shall have the burden of showing justification without undue delay prior to a limitation of student expression under this Act.
Section 15. Exceptions. This Act does not authorize or protect expression by a student journalist that:
(1) is libelous, slanderous, or obscene;
(2) constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy;
(3) violates federal or State law; or
(4) incites students to commit an unlawful act, to violate policies of the school district, or to materially and substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
Section 20. Liability. No expression made by students in the exercise of freedom of speech or freedom of the press shall be deemed to be an expression of school policy, and no school district or employee or parent, legal guardian, or official of the school district shall be held liable in any civil or criminal action for any expression made or published by students, except in cases of willful or wanton misconduct.
Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon becoming law.
Effective Date: 7/29/2016
110 ILCS 13/1 (public colleges)
Sec. 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the College Campus Press Act.
Sec. 5. Definitions. For purposes of this Act:
“Campus media” means any matter that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast by students at State-sponsored institutions of higher learning, that is distributed or generally made available, either free of charge or for a fee, to members of the student body, and that is prepared under the direction of a student media adviser. “Campus media” does not include media that is intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classrooms in which it is produced.
“Campus policy” means the views and positions of State-sponsored institutions of higher learning promulgated by administrators, officials, or other agents of these institutions.
“Collegiate media adviser” means a person who is employed, appointed, or designated by the State-sponsored institution of higher learning to supervise or provide instruction relating to campus media.
“Collegiate student editor” means a student at a State-sponsored institution of higher learning who edits information prepared by collegiate student journalists for dissemination in campus media.
“Collegiate student journalist” means a student at a State-sponsored institution of higher learning who gathers, compiles, writes, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in campus media.
“Prevailing party” includes any party who obtains some of his or her requested relief through judicial judgment in his or her favor, who obtains some of his or her requested relief through a settlement agreement approved by the court, or whose pursuit of a non-frivolous claim was a catalyst for a unilateral change in position by the opposing party relative to the relief sought.
“State-sponsored institution of higher learning” means the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, and public community colleges subject to the Public Community College Act.
Sec. 10. Public forum. All campus media produced primarily by students at a State-sponsored institution of higher learning is a public forum for expression by the student journalists and editors at the particular institution. Campus media, whether campus-sponsored or noncampus-sponsored, is not subject to prior review by public officials of a State-sponsored institution of higher learning.
Sec. 15. Grammar and journalism standards. Collegiate student editors of campus media are responsible for determining the news, opinions, feature content, and advertising content of campus media. This Section does not prevent a collegiate media adviser from teaching professional standards of grammar and journalism to collegiate student journalists. A collegiate media adviser must not be terminated, transferred, removed, otherwise disciplined, or retaliated against for refusing to suppress protected free expression rights of collegiate student journalists and of collegiate student editors.
Sec. 20. Injunction and declaratory relief. A collegiate student enrolled in a State-sponsored institution of higher learning or a collegiate media advisor of a State-sponsored institution of higher learning may commence a civil action to obtain appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief as determined by a court for violation of Section 10 of this Act by such State-sponsored institution of higher learning. Upon motion, a court may award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party in a civil action brought under this Section.
Sec. 30. Discipline; unprotected speech. Nothing in this Act prohibits the imposition of discipline for harassment, threats, or intimidation, unless constitutionally protected, or for speech that is not constitutionally protected, including obscenity or incitement.
Sec. 97. Severability. The provisions of this Act are severable under Section 1.31 of the Statute on Statutes.