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 signed by the Governor in April.
In 2019, similar legislation failed with a 3-5 vote in the House Education Subcommittee #1.
- 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
- Student like me deserve First Amendment freedom. (Aug 17, 2020), YR Media.
- Public schools in Virginia can censor student journalists any time, for any reason. A proposed law would change that. (Jan 12, 2020), The Washington Post.
- The case of the missing Radford University newspapers is partially cracked. But whodunit isn’t being shared, (Nov. 11, 2019) The Washington Post.
- New, restrictive publications policy hits journalists at a Virginia high school who were already being censored, (Oct. 3, 2019), Student Press Law Center.
- Frederick School Board tightens oversight of student publications, (Aug. 22, 2019), The Winchester (Va.) Star.
- Norfolk students filmed a report about their crumbling school. Administrators ordered it deleted, (July 3, 2019) The Virginian Pilot, Norfolk.
- In some Virginia school districts, principals are the ‘editors’ of student newspapers. Why that’s a problem, The Washington Post
- Mountaineer, Madison County High School, Va. adviser removed after students criticize school conditions.Other coverage: Madison Eagle.
- Surveyor yearbook, Mount Vernon High School, Alexandria: High school principal and yearbook editor battling over right to publish teen pregnancy photos. Other coverage: The Washington Post, The WP Wire
- The Falconer, Fauquier High School, Warrenton: Va. high school censors story about marijuana ‘dabbing’ Other coverage: The Washington Post
- The Lasso, George Mason High School, City of Falls Church: Mason High Newspaper Editor Challenges Censorship Policy
- The Blue and Gray Press, Mary Washington University, Fredericksburg: SPLC intervention spurred the University of Mary Washington to restore student newspaper funding
Virginia Press Association
Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers
You can see the list of national endorsers at the bottom of this page.
- Free Speech for Young Journalists Still Hamstrung by School Discretion, Falls-Church News Press (2-20-2020
- SPLC Statement: Virginia HB 36 As Amended Does Not Meaningfully Advance Protections for Student Journalists, Student Press Law Center (2-10-2020)
- House bill protecting student journalists advances, Senate bill table, WHSV3 (1-30-2020)
- The right to a free press should belong to students, too, Roanoke (Va.) Times (8-25-2019)
- Virginia laws fail to protect journalists, The Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. (2-18-2019)
- General Assembly Committee fails young journalists, The Blue and Gray Press, Mary Washington University, Fredericksburg, Va. (February 2019)
- State lawmakers kill legislation to protect student journalists, VCU Capital News Service, (1-29-2019)
- Lawmakers Kill Legislation to Protect Student Journalists in Virginia, NBC4, Washington, D.C. (1-28-2019)
- House subcommittee kills student censorship bill. Richmond Times-Dispatch, (1-28-2019)
- Protecting a bulwark of liberty, Richmond Times-Dispatch (1-26-2018)
- Virginia General Assembly should pass bill to protect student journalists, The Blue and Gray Press, Mary Washington University, Fredericksburg, Va. (1-24-2019)
- HB 2382 provides rights for student journalists, HHS Media, Harrisonburg (Va.) High School (1-24-2019)
- 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)
- EDITORIAL: End censorship of student media, The Cavalier Daily, University of Virginia, Charlottesville (1-15-2019)
- Legislators introduce journalist protections, WHSV-3, Harrisonburg, Va. (1-15-2019)
- Virginia legislators want to stop schools from censoring student media, Richmond Times-Dispatch (1-14-2019)
- Reporters-turned-delegates push for Virginia’s first shield law to protect journalists, Virginia Mercury (1-14-2019)
- Dels. Chris Hurst, Danica Roem introduce bills to protect journalists, The Roanoke Times, (1-14-2019)
- Virginia legislators introduce journalist protections, CBS-6, Richmond, Va. (1-14-2019)
- Editorial: Bright lights in the General Assembly Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, (1-13-2019)
- New legislation to protect student journalists introduced today, WSET ABC3, Lynchburg, Va. (1-10-2019)