Current Status: On March 23, 2023, West Virginia became the 17th state to protect student press freedom! The Student Journalist Press Freedom Act is now law; it will go into effect on June 9, 2023.
2023: On March 11, 2023, the West Virginia legislature overwhelmingly approved SB 121, sponsored by Senator Mike Azinger, and sent the bill to Governor Jim Justice for his consideration.
The bill went through several iterations – both positive and negative – before the final version was approved. Initially, the bill only protected college student journalists and advisers. In January, the West Virginia Senate amended and unanimously passed legislation protecting both high school and college student media. In doing so, however, they inserted unprotected language which would have unconstitutionally restricted the speech of college students. As a result of work by SPLC and advocates on the ground, these issues were resolved before final passage.
2023 marks the third time West Virginia has considered New Voices legislation. The bill never received a hearing in 2021, and a college-only version was passed by the Senate, but did not move in the House, in 2022.
• Get involved
• Why West Virginia needs New Voices
• Recent news
- 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, email@example.com
- Enlist all your friends in West 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.
- If you are a student or adviser who was censored, intimidated or retaliated against, contact SPLC’s legal hotline.
Why West Virginia needs New Voices
- Letter to the editor: Show support for student journalists. The Weirton Daily Times. (2-25-23)
- Student First Amendment Rights at Stake. Weir Student Media, Weir High School, Weirton, WV. (2-17-23)
- Op-ed: Student journalists have earned right of protection. The Parksburg News and Sentinel. (2-10-23)
- Protect the Rights of Student Journalists – Support SB 216. The Parthenon, Marshall University. (2-23-22)
- Accountability cannot exist without a free student press The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University, Morgantown (1-30-19)
- Editorial-in-Chief: Journalism’s role at WVU The Daily Athenaeum, West Virginia University, Morgantown (8-16-18)
- Fairmont State administrator removed from newspaper supervisor position after allegations of intimidation Student Press Law Center (7-22-15)
- Dorm mold story leads to adviser’s termination, student journalists allege Student Press Law Center (6-3-15)
You can see the list of national endorsers at the bottom of this page.