Legislation protecting free speech extremely necessary
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How the New Voices Act will protect the free speech of student journalists
Why is the New Voices Act necessary? The act protects student journalists and ensures that newspaper content is not censored by administration simply because it is offensive or critical of the school.
Yes, I am aware of the court ruling made in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier case back in 1988. Yes, I am aware that Pennsylvania is one of the few states that provides students with extended protection from censorship. In fact, high school students in Pennsylvania are protected by section 12.9 of the Pennsylvania school code. No, I am not simply sitting here writing this article to complain and whine about how unfair I think things are. What this is, is taking a stance against censorship of high school newspapers by administrators, and a stance supporting legislation sweeping across the nation to protect students’ rights.
It is becoming increasingly important for student journalists to realize that their voices do matter, and how better to show this than by protecting said voices. The New Voices Act, which has been passed in Missouri and North Dakota, aims to protect students and ensure illegitimate censorship does not occur.
According to the New Voices USA website, the goal of this legislation is to specifically “…Restore the Tinker standard of student expression in public high schools. The Tinker Standard (1967) protects student speech unless it is libelous, an invasion of privacy or creates a “clear and present danger” or a “material and substantial disruption” of the school.”
Student journalists are censored by administration more than many like to believe, and passing this new legislation would put an end to the cycle. Censorship itself is extremely damaging to society, as it keeps the real news from being shared. Imagine if every single thing someone read had to first be approved by the President of the United States; up-to-date news would become a thing of the past. Now imagine working under those conditions and fearing to cover controversial news because of censorship.
These feelings run rampant through many high school newspaper groups, as an increasing number of policies threatening the constitutional rights of student journalists are drafted and prior review practices are established. Student journalists are obligated to keep the student body up-to-date, and this task becomes impossible when they are afraid to cover hard-hitting news.
The New Voices website also argues that “punishing students for their speech teaches them that censorship, often arbitrary and without limits, is acceptable. But in a society dependent on journalists and the public keeping the government in check, we cannot afford to have curiosity and confidence bred out of our students. We cannot afford to stifle today’s new voices because they are tomorrow’s media leaders and citizens.”