‘New Voices’ bills deserve legislators’ support

February 14, 2020

Last month, we wrote about a bill that was pending in Virginia which would provide important protections to student journalists. Today, we’re happy to write about similar bills pending in other legislatures. 

The “New Voices” campaign, a legislative effort launched by the Student Press Law Center, aims to protect student journalists by statutorily overturning Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, a Supreme Court case which allowed school administrators in the K-12 setting to subject student publications to prior review and prior restraint before publication. The bills that include higher education provisions prevent the proliferation of the holding in Hosty v. Carter — a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — which applied the rationale in Hazelwood to the college context. To date, 14 states have already passed laws to protect student journalists from administrative censorship.

The bills currently pending in Hawaii and New York apply only to public high schools. In New Jersey, Missouri, and Nebraska, the bills apply to both public schools and public institutions of higher education. Colorado’s bill provides technical changes to an already-enacted version of the New Voices law.

FIRE’s interest in the legislation, per our higher education-centered mission, is on the bills’ applicability to colleges and universities. Because FIRE’s mission is limited to institutions of higher education, we are neutral on the K-12 provisions but strongly support the bills as they apply to public college campuses and hope those provisions are enacted. We’ll keep readers updated on the progress of the bills.