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New Nevada law protects student journalists

By June 14, 2017

On June 2, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill into law that will better protect the rights of student journalists in the state. Senate Bill 420, sponsored by Senator Nicole Cannizzaro and modeled after the Student Press Law Center’s New Voices draft legislation, prevents public schools and universities from censoring student media or disciplining student journalists for what they report. The law garnered broad bipartisan support, with the Nevada State Assembly passing the bill 30 to 11 and the Senate passing it unanimously.

Nevada’s new law provides better protections to student journalists by limiting the authority of administrators to censor or punish student journalists. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988) that administrators — at least in the K-12 setting — have the authority to censor school-sponsored student publications if administrators have “legitimate pedagogical reasons” for doing so. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit extended the Hazelwood ruling to college publications (erroneously, FIRE believes) in Hosty v. Carter (2005), which affects the states under its jurisdiction. The New Voices Act legislation prevents the spread of the Hosty decision to other states by statutorily protecting student journalists.

Several other states — such as North Dakota, Maryland, and Vermont — have recently enacted similar legislation. Nevada’s law takes effect on October 1, 2017. FIRE hopes that more states continue to pass similar laws.