Current Status: Iowa was one of the first states in the nation to adopt student press freedom protections in the wake of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. The Iowa Student Free Expression Law, passed in 1989, protected students from censorship except in certain narrow circumstances. In the 30 years that followed, however, advisers reported immense pressure to censor lawful student media. In some cases, advisers who refused to illegally censor their students suffered professional consequences including losing their media adviser position. Recent New Voices bills expressly protect these advisers, but the existing Iowa law was silent.
In 2021, the Iowa legislature updated the existing law to include these protections for student media advisers. HF509, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Konfrst, was introduced on Feb. 15, 2021 and referred to the Labor Committee. SF 238, sponsored by Sen. Liz Mathis, was introduced on Feb. 3, 2021 and referred to the Education Committee. Neither bill received a hearing. However, thanks to dedicated and tireless work on behalf of advocates, the bill language was amended onto other legislation that passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor in May 2021. Read SPLC’s statement here.
- Contact your state legislators to let them know why this bill is important to you. Find out who your legislators are here. Not sure what to say? Check out our phone script and letter-writing tips here.
- Refine your thoughts with talking points, a printable flyer and other resources here.
- Get looped in with volunteer coordinators to let them know about your efforts and learn about other ways to get involved: Hillary Davis, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Enlist all your friends in Iowa to raise their voices in support of this measure, which ensures the basic First Amendment rights of student journalists and protects their advisers from retaliation.
- If you are a student or adviser who was censored, intimidated or retaliated against, contact SPLC’s legal hotline.
Why Iowa needs New Voices
- Iowa student journalists launch independent newspaper after facing campus retaliation Student Press Law Center (7-2-15)
- Student journalists at Iowa community college allege harassment, intimidation in First Amendment lawsuit against administrators Student Press Law Center (5-6-15)
- Student newspaper containing critical article confiscated at Iowa high school Student Press Law Center (2-10-10)
- School image, not yearbook, intact Student Press Law Center (12-1-02)
- You can see the list of national endorsers at the bottom of this page.
- Freedom of expression in Iowa public schools may receive further protection The Center Square (2-16-21)
- Iowa schools shouldn’t be allowed to punish teachers to get around students’ free-speech protections Des Moines Register (3-11-20)