NEWS RELEASE: Hawaii Restores and Protects Student Press Freedom

16 people of various ages and races stand in two rows smiling at the camera
Student journalists, advocates, and others meet with Hawaii House Speaker Saiki after passage of HB1848.


Contact Hillary Davis, Advocacy and Organizing Director, 202-785-5451

WASHINGTON — The Student Press Law Center congratulates the State of Hawaii on the signing of HB1848, the “Hawaii Student Journalism Protection Act,” restoring and protecting the freedom of Hawaii’s student media. Hawaii is the sixteenth state to adopt such protections, known nationally as “New Voices” laws.

The law, which passed both chambers unanimously and was signed today by Governor David Ige, ensures that student journalists alone determine the content of school-sponsored media including newspapers and yearbooks, and are protected from censorship except in narrow, well-defined circumstances. The law also protects student media advisers from retaliation for refusing to illegally censor their students’ work.

SPLC executive director Hadar Harris said, “At a time when content-based restrictions on education are being legislated around the country, Hawaii has instead adopted a law which values student voices, encourages discussion and debate of civic issues, and recognizes the important contributions of a free student press. We are thrilled that Hawaii has become the 16th state to restore full First Amendment protections to student journalists through a New Voices law. Many thanks to the devoted advocates and legislators who made this happen.”

The Student Journalism Protection Act remedies the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision, which created an ambiguous and subjective standard for censorship of student-produced school-sponsored media. The standard has meant that, in practice, student journalists can be – and are – censored for virtually any reason.

The law takes effect immediately. The Student Press Law Center will continue to work with Hawaii schools to ensure that the law is implemented and enforced properly, and that students and advisors are aware of their rights.

The new law was adopted after years of advocacy by Hawaii’s student journalists and advisers.

Cindy Reves, adviser of The Pinion at McKinley High School and the driving force behind the legislation in Hawaii, said: “I’m so proud of my students for their perseverance in testifying in front of committee after committee and teaching other staff about the bill and the legislative process. Many times, being the only newspaper adviser at my school can be a lonely job, but I was uplifted by the professional journalists, journalism educators, our teachers union, and my administrator who submitted testimony and supported me and my students in this process. Different students journeyed with me in 2020 until COVID priorities killed our bill in its final committee. So in a way COVID gave me a gift, the chance to watch a second group of students actively learn about and participate in the legislative process. I will cherish the memories of watching my students testify via Zoom or in-person. The empowerment they felt in that experience was palpable.”

Said Tiffany Edwards Hunt, adviser of University of Hawaii – Hilo’s Ke Kalahea and Keaau Middle School’s Greenwaves Gazette: “I feel so much pride for our state for making history. The fact that we now have one of the most progressive student journalism [protection] laws in the country is a testament to lawmakers’ high regard for a free press and democracy. Mahalo to the governor for signing this legislation and helping to send a message to all student journalists that the fourth estate is alive and well, and highly crucial to the bedrock of democracy.”

Student Press Law Center: Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has worked to support, promote and defend the First Amendment and freedom of expression rights of student journalists at the high school and college level, and the advisers who support them. Working at the intersection of law, journalism and education, SPLC runs the nation’s only free legal hotline for student journalists. We also provide training, educational resources and support the grassroots non-partisan New Voices movement, seeking state-based legislative support for student press freedom. The SPLC is an independent, non-profit 501c(3) organization based in Washington, D.C.