In mid-February, New York State Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo introduced a new bill to protect high school and college student journalists, titled the “Student Journalist Free Speech Act,” which is pertinent during a time in which the press frequently comes under fire.
The bill stems from the New Voices movement, which was started by the Student Press Law Center, an organization that works to give young people the right to gather information and share ideas. The bill would give student journalists in New York state more control over their publications — school administrators typically have authority over the content in school publications, unless stated otherwise. This is especially true of high school publications.
The proposed legislation comes as a response to the 1988 Hazelwood School Distrcit v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court decision, in which the court ruled that school administrators have the right to review student publications, thereby earning the ability to censor students. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the decision, making the Lupardo-O’Mara bill even more crucial. A similar bill has already been passed in eight states to protect public and private high schools and colleges, while six other states have passed it to solely protect high school student reporters. It’s 2018, and free speech for student journalists is long overdue. New York should be no exception.
Although Pipe Dream is completely student-run and has the freedom to criticize and praise Binghamton University as we see fit, the Editorial Board recognizes that high schools and other colleges across the United States may not have this privilege. The proposed legislation would give all student journalists the freedom to report on both the positive and the negative aspects of their schools, which is, of course, essential to objective and balanced journalism. The Editorial Board stands in full support of this bill and of all student journalists.
We also commend and support Donna Lupardo, the state assemblywoman representing Vestal and the city of Binghamton, for sponsoring the bill.
We recognize and empathize with the fact that there are numerous obstacles to printing. Finances, securing ample office space, finding a reliable and affordable printing press and, of course, managing the day-to-day operations of running a newspaper are all tremendous concerns. In the same vein, student newspapers that are not independent and function under an adviser should not have to face censorship either. Printing a newspaper in any capacity takes a considerable amount of time and effort, and censorship should never be added to the list of difficulties students face. And even when they publish content only online, school newspapers often run into similar problems.
Student journalism is important to journalism as a whole. As a group, we should never be expected to remain complacent and silent in the face of unfair practices and regulations, and we should always have the right to openly criticize the institutions we fall under. It’s imperative to show support for this legislation, so contact your state senator or assemblyperson to make sure your voice is heard and to ensure that free speech is protected.