Arizona New Voices passes House Education Committee, now one step closer to becoming law

ARIZONA—In a 10-1 bipartisan vote Monday, the Arizona House Education Committee advanced New Voices legislation that would grant student journalists in the state freedom from administrative censorship.

Senate Bill 1384 unanimously passed the state Senate in February. The bill still has to go through the House Rules Committee before moving on to Democrat and Republican caucuses for further review.

House committee members slightly amended the Senate version of the bill for clarity. The bill previously read that “a public school, community college or university may restrain the distribution of content in school-sponsored media” that is libelous, slanderous, invades privacy or violates federal or state law. The amendment takes community colleges and universities out of the text of the bill, which gives college students heightened protection.

The Arizona bill requires each education agency to enact a local set of written content guidelines for school-sponsored media. The guidelines, however, cannot be restrictive beyond content that is libelous, invades personal privacy, or “materially and substantially” disrupts school operations.

Bill sponsor Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, previously told the SPLC that the provision was necessary because locally elected governing boards in Arizona determine how individual schools in each district are run.

Yee first proposed student press freedom legislation in the Arizona legislature in 1992 as a student journalist at Greenway High School who had faced administrative censorship, but the bill did not end up becoming law.

“This [current] bill really began 25 years ago, and I hope [it] will continue to expand upon freedom of speech for our budding journalists,” she told the SPLC. “I learned from that experience [in 1992] and worked with the opposition [this time around] to see where they’d be with this. They welcomed that opportunity and I think they’ll work with it rather than against it.”

The House Rules Committee typically meets on Mondays, but an agenda for its next meeting has not been released. Should the bill pass the Rules Committee, it moves on to House Democrat and Republican caucuses and then to a vote of the entire House floor.

SPLC staff writer Conner Mitchell can be reached by email or (202) 974-6318

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