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‘New Voices’ bill signed into law in Washington

Yesterday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed SSB 5064 into law, ensuring that student journalists in public K-12 schools and public institutions of higher education are free to “determine the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content” of school-sponsored media.

The bill, modeled on the Student Press Law Center’sNew Voices” campaign, passed with bipartisan support. It earned a vote of 91-6 in the Washington House of Representatives and 45-4 in the Senate. Washington joins other states such as Nevada, North Dakota, Maryland, and Vermont in adopting New Voices legislation.

New Voices protections ensure that school-sponsored media remain free from administrative control or prior review. That allows students the freedom to explore, write, and investigate without fear of censorship or punishment from administrators.

The new law nullifies the effects of the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier (1988), which granted administrators — at least in the K-12 setting — the authority to censor school-sponsored media if administrators had “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). New Voices legislation protects against Hazelwood’s effects in the K-12 setting and prevents its spread to higher education.

FIRE is thrilled that student journalists in Washington now enjoy these important statutory protections and hopes to see more states adopt similar protections in the future.

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