Washington New Voices Act (2018)

In 2018, Washington became the 14th state to sign a law protecting the rights of student journalists. After narrowly passing the House Judiciary Committee, the New Voices bill was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on March 21, 2018. The bill created two provisions, one to protect high school journalists, the other to protect college journalists. The law provides that student editors are responsible for the content of their media and that student advisers may not be terminated or otherwise disciplined for complying with the law. 


RCWA 28A.600.0001 and 28B.10.0003

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28A.600.0001. School-sponsored media–Permissible prohibition of student expression 

(1) Student editors of school-sponsored media are responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of the media subject to the limitations of subsection (2) of this section. This subsection does not prevent a student media adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to the student journalists. A student media adviser may not be terminated, transferred, removed, or otherwise disciplined for complying with this section.

(2) School officials may only prohibit student expression that:

(a) Is libelous or slanderous;

(b) Is an unwarranted invasion of privacy;

(c) Violates federal or state laws, rules, or regulations;

(d) Incites students to violate federal or state laws, rules, or regulations;

(e) Violates school district policy or procedure related to harassment, intimidation, or bullying pursuant to RCW 28A.300.285 or the prohibition on discrimination pursuant to RCW 28A.642.010;

(f) Inciting of students so as to create a clear and present danger of:

(i) The commission of unlawful acts on school premises;

(ii) The violation of lawful school district policy or procedure; or

(iii) The material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. A school official must base a forecast of material and substantial disruption on specific facts, including past experience in the school and current events influencing student behavior, and not on undifferentiated fear or apprehension; or

(g) Is in violation of the federal communications act or applicable federal communication commission rules or regulations.

(3) Political expression by students in school-sponsored media shall not be deemed the use of public funds for political purposes, for purposes of the prohibitions of RCW 42.17A.550.

(4) Any student, individually or through his or her parent or guardian, enrolled in a public high school may file an appeal of any alleged violation of subsection (1) of this section pursuant to chapter 28A.645 RCW.

(5) Expression made by students in school-sponsored media is not necessarily the expression of school policy. Neither a school official nor the governing board of the school or school district may be held responsible in any civil or criminal action for any expression made or published by students in school-sponsored media.

(6) Each school district that includes a high school shall adopt a written student freedom of expression policy in accordance with this section. The policy may include reasonable provisions for the time, place, and manner of student expression.

(7) The definitions in this subsection apply throughout this section unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

(a) “School-sponsored media” means any matter that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast by student journalists, 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. “School-sponsored media” does not include media that is intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classrooms in which they are produced.

(b) “Student journalist” means a student who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media.

(c) “Student media adviser” means a person who is employed, appointed, or designated by the school to supervise, or provide instruction relating to, school-sponsored media.

28B.10.0003. School-sponsored media–Limitations of student expression 

(1) Students at institutions of higher education have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media, whether or not the media are supported financially by the school or by use of school facilities, or are produced in conjunction with a class. All school-sponsored media produced primarily by students at an institution of higher education are public forums for expression by the student journalists and student editors at the particular institution. Student media, whether school-sponsored or nonschool sponsored, are not subject to mandatory prior review by school officials.

(2) Student editors of school-sponsored media are responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of the media. This subsection does not prevent a student media adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to the student journalists. A student media adviser may not be terminated, transferred, removed, or otherwise disciplined for refusing to suppress the protected free expression rights of student journalists.

(3) Nothing in this section may be interpreted to authorize expression by students that:

(a) Is libelous or slanderous;

(b) Constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy;

(c) Violates the federal communications act or any rule or regulation of the federal communications commission; or

(d) So incites students as to create a clear and present danger of:

(i) The commission of unlawful acts on school premises;

(ii) The violation of lawful school regulations, policies, or procedures; or

(iii) The material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. A school official must base a forecast of material and substantial disruption on specific facts, including past experience in the school and current events influencing student behavior, and not on undifferentiated fear or apprehension.

(4) Any student enrolled in an institution of higher education may commence a civil action to obtain appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief as determined by a court for a violation of subsection (1) of this section by the institution of higher education. Upon a motion, a court may award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action brought under this section.

(5) Expression made by students in school-sponsored media is not the expression of school policy. Neither a school official nor the governing board of any institution of higher education may be held responsible in any civil or criminal action for any expression made or published by students in school-sponsored media unless school officials or the governing board have interfered with or altered the content of the student expression.

(6) The definitions in this subsection apply throughout this section unless the context clearly requires otherwise.

(a) “School-sponsored media” means any matter that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast by student journalists, 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. “School-sponsored media” does not include media that is intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classrooms in which they are produced.

(b) “Student journalist” means a student who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media.

(c) “Student media adviser” means a person who is employed, appointed, or designated by the school to supervise, or provide instruction relating to, school-sponsored media.