Bill would remove school district oversight of student journalism

Student editors, not school employees, would determine importance and appropriateness

— Student journalists would no longer have to get approval from school district personnel before reporting on a story if amended Senate Bill 5064 is signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Sen. Joe Fain introduced the measure to extend 1st Amendment protections to student journalists.

The measure cleared the state House of Representatives, 91-6, today, March 5. It previously passed the Senate, 43-5, in January.

“Students deserve the opportunity to pursue stories that are important to them and their peers without fear of censorship,” Fain said. “Practicing journalism in its full capacity better prepares students to pursue a career in journalism and equips them with the critical thinking, research and writing skills that lead to more engaged citizens.”

Under the measure, student editors would be responsible for determining what is important and appropriate; school officials would be barred from interfering, as long as content isn't libelous, illegal or disruptive.

The amended bill would counteract the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court's Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier ruling, which held that school-sponsored student expression, including school newspapers and student journalists, could be regulated by school officials.

Fain’s legislation passed the Senate last year and was approved again in January.

The amended version heads back to the Senate for possible approval.

If the amendments are accepted, the bill will move on to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee, who could sign it, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it.


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