New Voices bills will give students more press freedoms, if passed

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Several New Voices bills have been introduced in eleven states since the beginning of 2019. These bills effectively counteract the 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court decision. The Hazelwood decision gave public school administrators more power to control the contents of students’ media.

Out of fifty states, fourteen already have New Voices laws in place. Of the eleven bills introduced, two have already failed to pass.

The New Voices movement has been around for the past five years. In 2015 and 2016, North Dakota made the push for more freedom for student medias. Since then several other states have followed around the country. The laws proposed aim to protect student journalists’ First Amendment press rights at the college and high school level, while also preventing retaliation from school advisers and teachers.

As of now, Arkansas (HB1231), Missouri (HB743), Nebraska (LB206), New York (A03079), Texas (SB514), Indiana (HB1213), and New Jersey(A238) have bills moving through the legislature. Minnesota and Pennsylvania will be introducing bills in the coming weeks. The two states who have failed to pass New Voice laws have been Hawaii and Virginia. The failure of these bills shouldn’t be seen as strictly negative, bill sponsor Delegate Chris Hurst from Virginia said.

“I wouldn’t look at what we experienced just now a defeat, because this is the first time any legislation like this had ever been introduced in Virginia,” Hurst (D-12th District) said. “We’ll try again next year, I can tell you that.”

Though it may sound like these bills are new legislature, proposed laws are familiar in many of the statehouses they’re passing through in 2019. Arkansas and Pennsylvania’s current press laws already provide statewide protection for high school students. However, this year’s bill will expand on these laws and add protections for college students as well. Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Indiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey all have had previous bills for students in the past.

You can join your state’s campaign for New Voices on Facebook and Twitter. Or visit newvoicesus.com for updates.

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