This month, legislators in both Virginia and Nebraska have attempted to strip New Voices legislation of its protections for high school journalists.
High school protection or bust
This month, legislators in both Virginia and Nebraska have attempted to strip New Voices legislation of its protections for high school journalists, upholding Hazelwood censorship while claiming to support student press freedom. Let there be no confusion: if a state does not protect high school journalists, they do not have a New Voices law.
Formalizing the rights of college journalists is important and we will always work to include them in New Voices laws, but it is also a codification of the status quo. We know college journalists are censored, but that censorship often already violates the policies and norms that govern college student journalism. Some courts have applied Hazelwood to college students but in general college students aren’t subject to the same censorship and have more recourse than high school journalists to push back.
High school students are the backbone of the New Voices movement. As we wrote in our statement following the Virginia vote:
“Each and every one of the fourteen states with student press freedom laws protects high school students, because these are the students who face onerous and subjective censorship in the wake of the damaging Hazelwood decision. It is these advisers who face adverse career consequences for defending their students. It is these students who have stood before the legislature to tell their stories. And it is the censorship of these students that undermines public education’s mission to produce critical thinking, civic-minded adults.”
We all have to make compromises during the legislative process, always with an eye on moving student press freedom forward. We cannot move forward while leaving high school students behind. Thank you to the high school journalists and advisers who fight every day for New Voices legislation; we stand with you.
Report from the states
Nebraska is addressing an unexpected filibuster, with opponents using up the allocated debate time with amendments and arguments designed to gut the bill (LB206). Advocates have responded by flooding the legislature with calls and emails of support for the bill, as well as hosting an “Ask Us Anything” on Facebook about the legislation.
The New Jersey senate is moving quickly to reiterate their support for New Voices. The Education Committee has unanimously voted to recommend S108 and a floor vote is expected soon.
Testimony by Virginia students and advisers ultimately swaying the subcommittee to support HB36. Student advocates then took to the hallways and held spur-of-the-moment meetings with more than twenty Delegates and staff members in support of the bill. Earlier in the month, Team Virginia circulated electronic postcards for advisers to print and send. Advocates are not deterred by the amended version that passed the House (see above), and are responding with letters, op-eds and other materials making clear the need for high school-protective legislation.
Colorado has had a student press freedom law in place since 1990, but the law does not protect advisers the way that recent New Voices laws do. The Colorado House unanimously voted to change the law (HB20-1062) and bring it up to date with the movement spreading across the country. Iowa is considering a similar update (SF2138) to their law, in place since 1989.
New Voices is celebrating multiple successes in Hawaii, starting with the first-ever hearing before the legislature. Students and advisers in Hawaii testified before the House Lower and Higher Education committee and then the Judiciary committee a few days later. Each committee unanimously approved the bill (HB1529).
Missouri has a new bill sponsor this year, and HB2317 has already been heard (but not yet voted on) by the Special Committee on Career Readiness.
Don’t forget to send us the things you’re proud of this month!
February Webinar - Leadership struggles, amendments, and stalled movement
Just when you think you have the legislature down, new complications arise. Join SPLC for this month’s webinar to talk through the ways your bill can go sideways, and brainstorm how to respond.
"How Bad Is This? Common Setbacks and How to Respond," Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. EST at this link or by calling 1-646-876-9923 US and entering the meeting ID 836 559 031.
Save the date for our March webinar, "What We Learned: Student Advocates on Lobbying Your Legislators," March 26 at 8p.m. EST.
Missed our January webinar, "Planning Your Testimony?" Find it here.
One of the best resources a movement has is its community. New Voices advocates from across the country gather in our Slack channel each day to share strategies and struggles, and to cheer each other on during hearings and votes. Join the discussion! Email Hillary at firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure one person from your state is in, and then you can invite the rest.
Student advocates have particular experiences and concerns that other students can speak to best. If you are a new student advocate or you have students who are new to New Voices, let us connect you with a Student Mentor who has been through this all before. Email Hillary for more information.
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