New Voices in Virginia (2019)

A New Voices bill (HB 2382) was introduced for the first time in Virginia on Jan. 9, 2019 and ended its run on Jan. 28 in a 5-3 vote in House Education Subcommittee #1. For details, scroll down this page to “Recent News.”

Its chief patron in 2019 Del. Chris Hurst, with Del. Danica Roem the chief co-patron. Both delegates are former journalists.

About two dozen student journalists and advisers drove to Richmond and packed the House subcommittee room. Ten students and advisers who experienced censorship or job retaliation submitted written testimony, and three addressed the subcommittee. The subcommittee vote of those present was deadlocked at 3-3 (meaning the bill would not go forward), and the final recorded vote was 5-3.

The bipartisan group of three delegates who voted to move legislation forward are LaMont Bagby (D-74th district), Glenn R. Davis (R-84th district) and Roslyn Tyler (D-75th district). The nays were cast by subcommittee Chair Richard Bell (R-20th district), Mark Cole (R-88th district), Gordon Helsel Jr. (R-91st district), Christopher Collins (R-29th district) and David Bulova (R-district 37).

The bill

HB 2382 Student Journalists; freedom of speech and the press. Details here.

Get involved

  • Refine your thoughts with talking points, a printable flyer and other resources here.
  • You can make a difference by immediately contacting your state delegate and senator to let them know why you support Virginia HB 2382. Find out who your representatives are by entering your address into this interactive map.
  • Do what you’re most comfortable with – a phone call, email, letter, social media post to lawmakers – or all.
  • You can also thank those who are already supporting the bill.
  • Get looped in with volunteer coordinators to let them know about your efforts. And, please get in touch if you are or were a student journalist (or adviser) who was the target of censorship, intimidation or retaliation:
  • Like and follow the New Voices of Virginia Facebook page.
  • Enlist all your friends in Virginia 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.

Why Virginia needs New Voices

Endorsements

Virginia Press Association
Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers
You can see the list of national endorsers at the bottom of this page.

Recent news

Virginia laws fail to protect journalists, The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. (2-18-2019) Student newsrooms are frequently overlooked by more expansive publications that see them as a lesser form of journalism, despite all of the hard work and genuinely impressive effort that student journalists are capable of. These publications are usually at the mercy of school administrations. Funding typically comes from the school, and teachers or advisers control the content.

General Assembly Committee fails young journalists, The Blue and Gray Press, Mary Washington University, Fredericksburg, Va. (February 2019). “I was frustrated that much of the opposition from the public who were present was centered around the idea that students cannot be responsible journalists because they are too young. One speaker went as far as to say that students are not journalists, which is incredibly ignorant, given the history of student journalists making an impact in this country. After the hearing, Del. Hurst spoke to everyone who came to speak in support of the bill, and was quick to refute this statement, saying, “As soon as you are practicing journalism, you are a journalist.” 

State lawmakers kill legislation to protect student journalists, VCU Capital News Service, (1-29-2019) Kate Carson, a former writer and editor for The Lasso, the student newspaper at George Mason High School in Falls Church, said her school’s administration censored several controversial topics the publication attempted to cover, including bathroom vandalism, absence policy abuse and a sexting scandal. “As student journalists, we were perfectly positioned to report on these issues and separate fact from rumor,” Carson said. “Instead, The Lasso was censored when we attempted to cover the vandalism and policy abuse. We didn’t even attempt to cover the sexting scandal.”

Lawmakers Kill Legislation to Protect Student Journalists in Virginia, NBC4, Washington, D.C. (1-28-2019) “All this bill does is protect against what we call the ‘making the school look bad censorship,’ the image-motivated censorship,” said Frank LoMonte, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and head of the New Voice Initiative, a campaign network for anti-censorship laws. “Anything a school can stop you from saying on a T-shirt or ball cap, they can stop you from saying in a newspaper.”

House subcommittee kills student censorship bill. Richmond Times-Dispatch, (1-28-2019) Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell, R-Staunton, Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson, and Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, voted against the bill. Bulova expressed concern with the bill covering less-experienced high school journalists as well as college reporters. The bill raised opposition from education lobbyists from the Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, among others.

Guest column by Delegates Chris Hurst and Danica Roem: Protecting a bulwark of liberty, Richmond Times-Dispatch (1-26-2018) We both got our start in journalism by working for student media, and we know firsthand the important role that student journalists play in communities across Virginia. In recent years, we have heard too many stories about high schools and universities in the commonwealth censoring student reporting or taking retaliatory action against a student publication’s adviser, as happened eight years ago in Madison County. In this climate, it is vital that we safeguard student journalists’ freedom to pursue the truth and hold those in power accountable. Censoring well-researched and well-vetted stories in student media does not just have a chilling effect on free speech — it also interferes with the open, democratic society our Founders envisioned, one shaped by the free exchange of ideas.

Staff Ed: Virginia General Assembly should pass bill to protect student journalists, The Blue and Gray Press, Mary Washington University, Fredericksburg, Va. (1-24-2019) The Blue & Gray Press faced its own challenges of censorship when we were initially denied funding for the 2018-19 school year. An important part of this bill is that it would protect student publications from censorship by administration even if they are financially supported by their schools. It also protects students regardless of whether the stories in question were “produced in conjunction with a course or class in which the student is enrolled.”

HB 2382 provides rights for student journalists, HHS Media, Harrisonburg (Va.) High School (1-24-2019) One of the biggest concerns with this bill is the fact that student journalists aren’t as experienced and more often make mistakes in their writing. However, the editing and “prior review” practices are not being eliminated. School officials still have the right to correct any piece of writing they believe has factual issues; the only change is that they are no longer allowed to prevent the publishing of pieces written factually by a student writer, even if they criticize the school system or the administration.

Proposed “New Voices” bill would provide valuable protections for student journalists in Virginia, TJ Today, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Va. (1-23-2019) It would strike a balance between protecting student journalists telling important stories and ensuring misleading, defamatory, or incendiary content is still blocked from publication. Every student publication deserves the freedom to write about issues prevalent in their school community without fear of being punished. Journalism is a tool for positive change, and the freedom to initiate that change by writing pieces on in-depth subjects should not be reserved only for professional publications.

EDITORIAL: End censorship of student media, The Cavalier Daily, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (1-15-2019) Proposed by Del. Chris Hurst (D-Montgomery), House Bill 2382, also known as a “New Voices Bill,” states that student journalists in both public K-12 and public higher education have the right to uncensored free speech, except in certain libelous or illegal cases, regardless of the newspaper’s financial relationship with its institution. For newspapers that rely on their schools and universities for financial support, the enactment of this bill would bring safety to their currently volatile situations. Also, this sort of law would give student journalists the confidence to pursue stories that would otherwise lead to editorial or financial sanctions.

Legislators introduce journalist protections, WHSV-3, Harrisonburg, Va. (1-15-2019) Two delegates, both former journalists, introduced legislation Monday to protect student journalists from censorship and shield reporters from having to disclose confidential sources … These pieces of legislation come at a time when professional journalists are increasingly targets of violence. A 2018 report by Reporters Without Borders — a nongovernmental organization that promotes journalistic free speech worldwide — found nearly 350 journalists were detained, 80 killed and 60 held hostage by November. More than 250 reporters globally were jailed in 2018, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Virginia legislators want to stop schools from censoring student mediaRichmond 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 journalistsVirginia 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 journalistsThe 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.

Virginia legislators introduce journalist protections, CBS-6, Richmond, Va. (1-14-2019) While the current legislation focuses on implementing protections for student reporters in public schools and universities, Del. Chris Hurst said he wants the protections to eventually encompass private institutions. He said the legislation was “something that would, as fast as possible, put protections in place for student journalists at our public schools, our public colleges and universities.”

Editorial: Bright lights in the General Assembly Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch (1-13-2019) Del. Chris Hurst, a former anchor and reporter for WDBJ in Roanoke, has introduced HB 2392, which would guarantee freedom of expression for student journalists and student-published media at Virginia schools. The bill would safeguard student journalists’ work from unnecessary censorship or retaliation from school administrators. Schools would only be able to interfere if the media content violates federal law, is defamatory, or dangerous.

New legislation to protect student journalists introduced todayWSET ABC3, Lynchburg, Va. (1-10-2019) “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.