Collegiate and high school journalism students are banding together to support legislation that would protect them against unfair censorship and punishment for reporting on political, social and educational issues.

H.B. 1130 was filed in the Indiana General Assembly by Reps. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, and Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis. Rep. Clere is a former newspaper reporter and high school newspaper editor. Rep. Delaney has represented reporters and journalistic organizations as an attorney.

The bill is being supported by the Indiana High School Press Association and Indiana Collegiate Press Association. They have identified a group of students who will advocate in the Statehouse for passage of H.B. 1130.

While freedom of speech and press are parts of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution, educational leaders have depended upon the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier to censor content they didn’t want to see included in student publications. The decision allows administrators to control content if the basis is “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.

“Unfortunately, educators sometimes believe legitimate news should be censored,” said Steve Key, executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association (HSPA).

“There was a situation in Franklin Township (Indianapolis) where an advisor was punished for allowing students to report on a murder allegedly committed by a student.”

HSPA will support this legislative effort by student journalists. H.B. 1130 has been assigned to the House Education Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

According to IHSPA and ICPA, 19 states have groups working with legislators to protect student journalists. There are 12 states with statutes or rules protecting the First Amendment in schools (five that protect both college and high school students and seven that protect high school students only).

The grassroots coalition of student journalists are operating under the name “New Voices of Indiana.” The group says students are “embedded journalists” informing communities on how effective schools are performing.

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