According to the Student Press Law Center, Josh Moore, a college sophomore in Kentucky, has collaborated with a state representative to introduce a bill into the Commonwealth’s House of Representatives that seeks to combat restrictions on student press. Moore believes that it is better for students to be given full responsibility as journalists and to suffer the consequences, than for students to suffer from administrative censorship. According to SPLC:
The proposed bill gives high school student journalists the right to free speech and press in student-produced media “whether or not the media are supported financially by the school or by the use of school facilities or are produced in conjunction with a high school class.”
Aside from limitations for libelous expression, an unwarranted invasion of privacy, and the provocation of danger or disruption on campus, the bill allows students freedom in “determining the news, opinions, feature, and advertising content” for their publications. Also included is a provision protecting advisers who refuse to suppress the “protected expression of students.”
The bill takes after similar bills in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts and Oregon that seek to restore first amendment rights to high school media after the Supreme Court weakened protections of high school media in its 1988 ruling in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. Some people working in education in Kentucky have expressed opposition to the bill, but an editorial published by The Daily News of Bowling Green, Kentucky supported the bill:
Young journalists whose work is censored could be left with the feeling that the First Amendment simply doesn’t matter – the issue of freedom of the press is too important to be put on hold until they leave school, which is what, unfortunately, some school districts have been doing. . . . Young students who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism should have the freedom to publish the facts, regardless of whether it makes a school look good or bad.
Moore has been busy advocating for his bill, as evidenced by his website. It is good to see a student taking an active role in government in order to ensure the freedom of student speech.