New Voices in Virginia (2020)

Current Status: An amended version of HB36 protecting only college students was approved by both chambers in March.

For the second time, Virginia considered legislation (HB36, SB80) to restore and protect the rights of student journalists and protect student media advisers from punishment for refusing to violate those rights. First championed in 2019 by Delegate Chris Hurst, himself a former journalist, the legislation was also sponsored in 2020 by Senator David Marsden.

On January 29, Student Press Freedom Day 2020, more than a dozen students, teachers, administrators and advocates testified before the House Post-Secondary and Higher Education subcommittee in support of HB 36. The subcommittee recommended an amended version of the bill, on 5-3 vote.

Earlier in January, the Washington Post profiled the legislation and the student journalists who have fought against censorship in Virginia. Later that month, the Senate committee heard the legislation and decided to table it until 2021.

On February 3, the House Education committee approved another amended version of the legislation that stripped all protections for high school journalists and their advisers. As college students already have some protections and it is the high school students and advisers facing the brunt of censorship and retaliation in Virginia, the amendment – passed on a 10-8 vote – rendered the legislation unacceptable to New Voices students, teachers and advocates. Read the SPLC’s statement here. The legislation in its reduced form was approved by both the House and Senate in March, and awaits consideration by the Governor.

In 2019, similar legislation failed with a 3-5 vote in the House Education Subcommittee #1.

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Get involved

  • Contact your delegate and senator to let them know why this bill is important to you and why high school students and advisers need this legislation. Find out who your representatives 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:
  • Like and follow New Voices of Virginia on Facebook.
  • 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.
  • If you are a student or adviser who was censored, intimidated or retaliated against, contact SPLC’s legal hotline.

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