Public schools in Virginia can censor student journalists any time, for any reason. A proposed law would change that. The Washington Post (Jan. 12, 2020) Student Press Law Center New Voices organizer Hillary Davis said the newfound enthusiasm for student journalism stems from a confluence of two broader trends. First, school-aged activists have convinced adults that students have something worthwhile to say — most prominently through movements combating gun violence and climate change. “Second, we’re having a larger conversation about press freedom generally,” Davis said, pointing in part to the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on journalists.
Lawmakers again file bills to protect student, working journalists. Daily Press Newport News, Va. (Jan. 6, 2020) Frank LoMonte, the former executive director of the Student Press Law Center who now teaches media law at the University of Florida, said the retaliation protections are especially important, because school officials will go to the media advisor first if they want to shut down a story. “That’s so often where that censorship happens,” he said. “(The media advisor) ends up acting as a censor because it’s the only way to keep her job.”
Virginia delegate continues fight for student journalist protections, WTVR, Richmond, Va. (Dec. 15, 2019) Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, introduced HB36 to protect the rights of student journalists from censorship and student media advisers from punishment. The 12th District delegate first introduced the bill [lis.virginia.gov] in the 2019 session with co-patron Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, but the bill died in a subcommittee vote, 5-3. Student journalists in Virginia have faced school censorship. When the bill was introduced last year, 10 students and advisers who experienced censorship or job retaliation submitted written testimony, and three addressed the subcommittee.
Pennsylvania delegation attends SPLC New Voices Institute, PA New Voices, (Oct. 18, 2019) Amid the strategic planning, delegates shared personal experiences that spanned the spectrum of emotion; however, they all yield one common thread: Student voices deserve to be heard. Whether these voices are silenced at the hands of administrative censorship or – even more likely – self-censorship, when student voices go unheard, student stories go untold, and, to quote the slogan that appears on the masthead of The Washington Post, “Democracy dies in darkness.”
Raise Your Voices, Tesserae yearbook, Corning-Painted Post High School in Corning, NY. (Oct. 18. 2019) “There were some really really impactful stories— there was a journalism advisor that talked about how she had a son that died just a few minutes after he was born, and her students covered that in their yearbook and it was censored.
Protecting the Right to Write, The New York Times Upfront/Scholastic (Sept. 16, 2019) “This movement has been growing,” says Hadar Harris, executive director at the Student Press Law Center, “because of committed teachers and students who recognize the need to protect student journalists.”
Op-Ed by Bob Gibson: The right to a free press should belong to students, too, Roanoke (Va.) Times (8-25-2019). One of the greatest freedoms that Americans enjoy was born in Virginia 243 years ago but still is not fully shared with the state’s high school and college students. “Our country needs trained and qualified journalists now more than ever,” Del. Chris Hurst said Aug. 20 when asked why he sees a need for the press freedom measure. “Most reporters hone their skills as students. We need to protect their rights as journalists to make sure they develop into trustworthy reporters.”
Frederick School Board tightens oversight of student publications, (Aug. 22, 2019) The Winchester (Va.) Star. Now, the policy update says school-sponsored publications “are not intended to provide a public forum for students or the general public.” Azrael Stavely, 17, a senior at Millbrook High School, took a journalism class at Millbrook last year and said it was already difficult enough for students to write about what they wanted for the student publications. “Students should be able to write about what they care about and not be censored,” Azrael told The Star.
New York students rally in Albany for freedom of the press – Bill would make it harder to censor student journalists (4/30/2019), Times Union, Albany, NY Representatives of the newspaper industry also support the bill, since they view it as helping to foster the next generation of journalists and as a needed free speech protection. “An imperiled press needs the fresh eyes and strong shoulders of a new generation,” said Rex Smith, editor of the Times Union and chairman of the board at the New York News Publishers Association.
Guarantee free speech rights to NY students, (4/30/2019) Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY. Through school newspapers and other media, young journalists learn more than the basics of reporting and writing; they also learn the ethics of responsible journalism, media literacy in the era of false news, and citizenship in their school community and the wider world. Young people are in the middle of the nation’s biggest controversies – gun violence in schools, sex education and immigration, to name just three. Student journalists should have the freedom to report on their own lives without fear of censorship from adults who would rather not deal with controversial issues.
Capitol Pressroom: Student Journalism radio interviews, (4/30/2019) WCNY, Syracuse, NY. We heard from Corning Painted Post High School teacher and advisor Mike Simmons as well as two student journalists on how the bill would impact their student-led publications.
New Voices legislation seeks to restore student journalist rights The Feather, Fresno (Calif.) Christian School (4-2-2019) “Student journalists are the most perfectly positioned people to shine light on issues within the school community that the public has a right to know about,” said SPLC Staff Attorney Sommer Ingram Dean. “Censorship is detrimental to society as a whole, and that is no less true in the school setting. We cannot afford to have students afraid to practice the important civic duty of holding the government accountable when it is the voices of these very students that are leading us into the future.”
Letter from the Editor: There’s hope for student journalists, The Free Press, University of Southern Maine, Portland (4-1-2019) Neha Madhira is one of many students across the country who are speaking up and taking action for the rights of student journalists. Historically, there have been very few cases involving student speech, and even less regarding student publications, so there are limitations in terms of legal protections.
Unusual coalition seeks to make NJ 15th state to pass New Voices law to ensure student press rights, The College Voice, Mercer County Community College, West Windsor Township, N.J. (3-28-2019) What do you get when you combine a beauty pageant winner, a pair of veteran high school teachers, and some supportive lawyers, politicians and journalists? You get a movement to try to bring into existence new legislation aimed at securing student journalists in New Jersey against censorship.
Virginia legislators want to stop schools from censoring student media, Richmond Times-Dispatch (1-14-2019) “Protecting student press freedom is an important component of protecting democracy itself,” said Hadar Harris, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “The bill does a great job of walking the line of giving students real protections to publish well-reported, important stories, and providing common-sense restrictions to ensure that they do not publish content which might be unlawful or unethical.”
Reporters-turned-delegates push for Virginia’s first shield law to protect journalists, Virginia Mercury (1-14-2019) Del. Chris Hurst also authored a bill to better protect student journalists’ First Amendment rights at public colleges and universities. There have been a number of concerns about student journalists’ ability to fully exercise their First Amendment rights, Hurst said. Notably, the University of Mary Washington stopped print publication of its student newspaper last year and the Student Press Law Center was concerned it was because of content.
Dels. Chris Hurst, Danica Roem introduce bills to protect journalists, The Roanoke Times, (1-14-2019) Del. Hurst’s bill would prohibit schools from limiting student’s rights to free press and speech unless such content was libelous, slanderous, violates federal or state law or incites students to create a clear and present danger, violates policies or disrupts the school setting. It also would prohibit faculty advisers from being disciplined for helping students produce journalism. The student journalism bill is part of the “New Voices” movement. Similar laws exist in 14 states, and at least three legislatures are currently considering bills.
New legislation to protect student journalists introduced today, WSET ABC3, Lynchburg, Va. (1-20-2019) “The integrity of reporters and journalism has never been more important, including the work done by students,” said Delegate Chris Hurst. “Thorough and vetted articles and news stories in student media shouldn’t be subject to unnecessary censorship by administrators.” Currently, media students put out is at the discretion of the school or institution where it’s published, and is not given the same protections that professional journalists have.
Young journalists – again – school the adults, Bennington (Vt.) Banner, (12-10-2018) It’s almost like they had something to hide — something, that is, beyond their ignorance of the 1995 Arkansas Student Publication Act, which, like Vermont’s “New Voices” law, is intended to protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists … We applaud the courageous student journalists at the Har-Ber Herald, the BHS Register and elsewhere and urge them to continue to investigate their school districts’ policies and how they are being implemented. Perhaps their efforts will help teach district officials a little something about the importance of the First Amendment, the evils of censorship and the folly of trying to bury the truth.
Meet the South Dakota student pushing state legislators for student press freedom, The Lead (11-27-2018). The most amazing thing I’ve learned is that in South Dakota, we connect well and are passionate about freedom of speech. Everyone recognizes the immense power that comes with speaking your mind and having open dialogue
High school journalists stand up to censorship and win, The Associated Press (9-23-2018). The New Voices law (in Vermont) is intended to ensure free speech and free press protections for public school students in order to encourage students to become educated, informed, and responsible members of society,” the school district said. Thirteen other states have passed similar legislation.
Kuhlmeier, Springfield local, shares Supreme Court experience, The Standard, Missouri State University, Springfield (9-19-2018). Kuhlmeier has put the (1988) Supreme Court’s decision behind her, but that doesn’t mean she’s given up the fight. She now works with the New Voices, who advocate for students’ rights and fight to prevent censorship.
Re-imagining a 21st Century Democracy, Swearer Center, Brown University, (academic journal, starting on page 66). (September 2018). Co-authored by Frank LoMonte, Sophie Gordon and Peter Bobkowski. “Journalism-related activities, such as working on the school newspaper or the news website, engage students in current community issues and can nourish a lifetime of civic engagement.”
After months of criticism and bad press, Texas high school reverses prior review policy, allows editorials, Student Press Law Center (8-13-2018). “I think this case just kind of demonstrates the general unfairness that exists in Texas where the standard can be changed virtually overnight on the whim of a school official,” said SPLC Senior Legal Counsel Mike Hiestand.
Missouri scraps student press freedom bill for third year in a row, Student Press Law Center (5-21-2018). The Missouri Senate killed House Bill 1940, also known as the Cronkite New Voices Act, by not voting on it before the legislative session ended on May 18. This marks the third consecutive year Missouri’s student press freedom bill has passed the House and a Senate committee only to stall out without ever going to a full Senate vote.
The Capitol Pressroom podcast, WCNY, Syracuse, N.Y. (4-27-2018). A bill from Asm Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) seeks to ensure free speech protections for high school student journalists. We heard from the Assemblymember as well as from student journalists from Corning-Painted Post School.
CityViews: NY Legislators Ought to Protect Student Press Freedom CityLimits.org, New York (4-26-2018). The writer, age 16, notes, “My classmates and I did not join a PR club, we joined a newspaper.”
Student journalists win decades-long fight against censorship, The Seattle Times (3-25-2018). School administrators argued they need to control content as a learning experience for student journalists. But free speech is clearly the dominant issue in this case. High schools and colleges need student newspapers that tell truth to power, even when that truth is uncomfortable.
Bill Adding Protections for Student Newspapers Moves Through Legislature, The Daily Chronicle, Centralia, Wash. (2-16-2018). The bill also includes protections for school newspaper advisers. The bill would not allow administration to punish advisers for protecting students’ free speech rights but still allows for school officials to place and hire staff to best fit their needs.
I’m a student journalist. The Legislature should protect my rights, too, Crosscut, Seattle (2-16-2018). Whether you are a student journalist or a professional journalist, at the end of the day you’re a journalist. The Constitution outlines that we have the right to a free and uncensored press.
Students deserve equal rights, Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald (1-28-2018). “The constitution should apply to student journalists and advisors just as it does for all other Americans. One’s rights should not be restricted because of age or the degree they hold.”
Allow students a voice, St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Tribune (1-28-2018) “Sometimes — usually at a moment most opportune for school or college administrators — student expression is restricted without good cause. Or worse — simple reporting of what students and others think becomes subject to unjustified censorship.”
Give our youngest truth-seekers their First Amendment rights, Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, NY (1-25-2018) “Educators should not be preparing our nation’s truth-seekers by discouraging them from looking for it or prohibiting them from telling it.”
Missouri students deserve ‘New Voices, Joplin (Mo.) Globe (1-17-2018) “We support the Cronkite New Voices Act and believe the efforts of Missouri’s young journalists deserve to be taken seriously.”
Missouri needs protections for student journalists, Joplin (Mo.) Globe (11-14-2017) “We would call on our lawmakers to spend some time in the classrooms of high schools that still offer journalism classes and produce school newspapers or news websites. They will find advisers and students more than ready to be granted their First Amendment rights as members of a free press.”
New Voices allows student journalists to be heard, Nevada Appeal/Lahontan Valley News (5-16-17) “This legislation is not a Democrat nor Republican issue. It must be a bipartisan acceptance to show Nevada’s lawmakers treasure free speech as long as it does not disrupt the learning process.”
Student journalists deserve protection, Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune (4-13- 2017). “The next generation of journalists needs to understand the importance of the First Amendment and the protections it offers. Starting them off without these safeguards sets a bad example and has the potential to drive young talent away from the profession.”
The wrong end for student journalist bill in Indiana Senate, South Bend (Ind.) Tribune (4-11-2017). “Some might look at what happened to House Bill 1130 and dismiss it as affecting ‘only’ student publications. That would be the wrong way to understand what the recent defeat of this bill in the Indiana Senate says about First Amendment rights — and how easily this basic principle can be defeated with a dose of fear and misinformation.”
Freedom of the student press?, The Franklin, Franklin (Ind.) College (2-23-2017) “Students should be allowed to explore real world issues. Fluff stories about the best place to buy a formal dress are not sample-story worthy for internship applications.”
Protect New Voices, The Caledonian Record, St. Johnsbury, Vermont (2-23 2017) “We’ve seen plenty of instances, over the years, of school officials stifling free expression of young writers when their candid reports cast the school in a negative light.”
Remove gag from student journalists, The Seattle Times (2-5-2017) “Let the students write. The country needs them.”
Student press freedom, Vermont Public Radio (1-26-2017) “As a profession, journalism is clearly under fire, both politically and economically, so it’s more important than ever to teach our children about the power of finding and telling the truth, in whatever media they choose.”
Allow students to practice rights, responsibilities of free press, Everett (Wash.) Herald (1-24-2017) “As journalists and media outlets work to rebuild the vitality of the Fourth Estate and the public’s trust in journalism — particularly during a presidential administration that threatens to kick the watchdog at every opportunity — we will need journalism students who are schooled in their rights and their responsibilities and have already worked to develop the muscles to use them.”
The Record: Free Student Press, The Record, Hackensack, N.J. (8-26-2016). “Being free to criticize school officials without the fear of censorship or retribution isn’t an unreasonable expectation for students in New Jersey. It’s called democracy.”
Stop censorship of student journalists, The Daily Record, Parsippany, N.J. (7-21-2016). “School officials too often exhibit arrogance in squelching negative stories, as if somehow students are exploiting the freedom which they’ve been given. But this isn’t a corporate environment in which every employee is expected to pull for the team.”
New Voices Fight to Restore Student Free Speech The Cato Institute, Washington, D.C. (4-8-2016). “Our schools have educated a generation of sheep who come into college believing the government can tell them what to do, what to think and what they can say or not say,” said David Cuillier, journalism professor at the University of Arizona.
New Voices Act Champions freedom of speech at Washington State Legislature The Buccaneer, Peninsula College, Port Angeles, Wash. (3-6-2016). Mike Hiestand, affiliated with the Student Press Law Center, said that the school district would probably end up being the one to pay the court fees if a student were to win an illegal censorship case. “This law would give much more defined lines of what can be censored. Nobody knows what ‘speech that is inconsistent with the shared values of social order means.”
A Toxic Lesson of Censorship, The Sun, Baltimore (3-3-2016). Op-ed by Frank LoMonte. There’s an urgent consensus that young people are entering the electorate under-prepared to take ownership of their democracy — and Maryland’s legislature has a chance to enact a proven civics-education reform that costs zero dollars. The New Voices Act (SB 764 by Sen. Jamie Raskin) would add Maryland to the growing list of states that protect student journalists against retaliation merely for writing articles that address controversial political issues or reflect unflatteringly on their schools.
Protecting Student Journalists, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (2-28-2016). “How are student journalists supposed to learn the fundamentals and ideals of their craft if they have to constantly wonder whether their content will bring down the wrath of administrators?”
Do not silence students, News Press. St. Joseph, Mo. (2-27-2016). “Administrators might think they know best how to contend with these subjects, but others understand our young people experience these issues in intensely personal ways, have insights adults lack and can contribute greatly to making things better.”
New law aims to protect (Missouri) student journalists, The Journal, Webster University, Webster Groves, Mo. (2-27-2016). Censorship of student journalists prevents them from reporting on important stories and holding school officials accountable. It also underlines the idea that students’ rights as citizens are less important than the whims of their schools.
Lead the Fight Against Campus Censorship, Campus News (2-13-2016). “Hazelwood not only hurts journalists, but ruthlessly disregards the voices of all students, and fails to keep public employees accountable. It’s important for any student, regardless of their relationship with student press, to fight against censorship and join the New Voices movement to protect the sanctity of their institution.”
State Law Should Guarantee Freedoms for Student Journalists, West Bend (Wisc.) Current (2-9-2016). “I want to explore serious stories and apply the skills I have gained by being a student in this district. Unfortunately, my learning is too often hindered by the same officials who are, I believe, charged with nurturing my learning environment.”
Legislation would protect student speech and schools, The Herald, Everett, Wash. (2-7-2016). Op-ed by Vincent F. DeMiero. The truth is that no court has ever found a school district liable for content published by students in their student media. However, it is true that many districts and school officials have been successfully sued for infringing on student rights. Again, the bill would clarify these issues and preempt such legal action.
Give students freedom to learn free speech, The Herald, Everett, Wash. (2-3-2016). “With administrators making the call, students can’t adequately learn the standards of journalism to check and double-check facts and know the boundaries of the First Amendment.”
ROONEY: Student journalists deserve to be treated as professionals, The Daily Nebraskan (1-19-2016). “With this bill, student journalists would be allowed to act as professional journalists. Just because we are still learning at our universities or colleges doesn’t mean we don’t know what we’re doing. We know how to be journalists, and now we will be allowed to act more like them.”
Loeks: Students deserve First Amendment protections, Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star Herald (1-12-2016). “Perhaps I was fortunate as a high school and college journalism student, but as an editor, I had a steady awareness of student censorship issues and cases and my responsibility to represent other student journalists. That responsibility was never far from our minds when we were addressing an issue that administrators, faculty or even parents may take issue with. We were always careful, with the help of our journalism instructors, to approach such issues with balance.”
Missouri and Nebraska Legislators Introduce Campus Press Legislation, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (1-12-2016). “…A free student press is exceedingly important, not just because it gives students a space to learn investigative and writing skills, but also because student newspapers often educate the broader community about matters of public concern. When student journalists cannot perform this function without the threat of punishment or censorship, the campus community can miss out on critical information.”
From the Daily: Defending student journalists. The Michigan Daily (11-7-2015). “If young journalists are not allowed to report freely, they will not properly learn and practice the ethics of journalism and therefore not be able to keep university administrators in check. Ensuring their freedom of speech through law is the only practical option to keep the college press free.”
Michigan Needs a New Voice: Challenging Censorship in the Wolverine State, Huffington Post (7-24-2015). “By punishing students for challenging the world around them, administrators are stunting young people’s civic growth. Journalism is a craft, a catalyst for change and an agent of information-spreading that everyone can use but few can teach well.”