Student free press legislation is headed to the Arizona governor’s desk after the state Senate today approved changes proposed yesterday by the House. The bill, if signed into law, would prevent public schools and colleges from censoring otherwise lawful student media, disciplining student journalists for what they write, or retaliating against media advisers.
Senate Bill 1384 passed through Arizona’s Senate with no votes in opposition. By accepting the House version without changes, the Senate’s vote sends the bill directly to Governor Doug Ducey, who we hope will sign it into law promptly.
The bill is part of the Student Press Law Center’s New Voices campaign, an ongoing effort to pass free press legislation in every state. North Dakota, Illinois, and Maryland have already passed similar versions of New Voices legislation, and as we reported just yesterday, Vermont’s bill is on its governor’s desk.
The protections in the bill change the status quo for K-12 students substantially, essentially reversing the effect of the Supreme Court’s 1988 decision in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which permits school administrators to limit expression for “legitimate pedagogical reasons” in school-sponsored material. And although Hazelwood was a K-12 decision, including colleges within the proposed law’s protection is necessary after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’s 2005 opinion in Hosty v. Carter, which extended the Hazelwood standard to a college publication.
The Seventh Circuit only governs Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin; as stated above, Illinois has already reversed the effect of the Hosty decision with its own state law. New Voices legislation provides a bulwark against the spread of Hosty’s rationale to other states.