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Promoting scholastic press rights legislation: A Blueprint for Success


Thursday, Feb 22


Educate, advocate, empower: The mission of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee is clear, active and powerful – the same traits we look for in successful school journalism programs.

As the committee looked to put its mission into action, it worked to honor requests from a number of advisers across the country who asked the SPRC to compile information about state legislation in order to help those interested in enacting laws to protect student media freedoms.

Drawing from a number of excellent sources, such as the Student Press Law Center’s 1990 legislation guide and materials created for past and current state legislation campaigns, the committee originally created the following “blueprint” for advisers in 2012 for students and citizens who want to move forward with a legislative action plan.

This is a new version of that plan. The intent of this version is to create a robust and responsive document that can easily be updated.

Even if successful legislation is not achieved, those who have participated in the process agree it is an incredible opportunity for civic engagement, especially for students. It allows them to experience the legislative process and to know they, as individuals, can make an impact.

Remember, not all student free expression laws are the same and no student free expression law is perfect. Knowing how the state operates is paramount in this process.

The legislation blueprint includes:

  1. Important steps to take in a legislative action plan;
  2. Talking points on common student media misconceptions;
  3. Resource links;
  4. Links to student expression laws and recommended language;
  5. Sample news release; and
  6. Acknowledgements.

This blueprint is intended to be a general guide, given that every state is different. The legislative process may take more than a year; compromises may be necessary, but at least 13 states have successfully secured greater media freedoms for student journalists.


Step 1: Develop a core group.

It would take a miracle to get a bill passed with individual supporters acting independently of each other. Student free expression legislation, and the lobbying that goes along with it, requires organization. Form a coalition. Individuals who want to see student media protections in their state should form a coalition to support such a law.

Step 2: Develop the case for for the legislation.

  • Why should this be passed now?
  • How is this a nonpartisan bill?
  • Compile a list of examples of censorship in the state – arguing in the abstract is often ineffective and makes the legislation vulnerable to criticism that it is a “solution in search of a problem.” See this link for an idea on learning what students self censor.
  • Craft and disseminate talking points — the “why” of the bill (see talking points below)
  • Anticipate the arguments opponents may state.

Step 3: Find sponsor(s)

  • Preferred to have one from each party if possible to show this is not a partisan bill.
  • Finding a primary sponsor with a journalism connection may contribute to the bill’s success.
  • It’s important the legislator understands the depth of need of the bill. The ideal sponsor will not be afraid to spend some political capital on the bill.

Step 4: Draft the legislation

  • Know your goals. Will you include public and private? 7-12? Include college and high school?
  • Work to include the adviser protection aspect of the bill.
  • Look to and provide the other bills and protections:

Rhode Island Law

Vermont Law

Iowa Law

Kansas Law

Massachusetts Law

Arkansas Law

Colorado Law

Oregon Law

California Law

North Dakota Law

Maryland Law

Illinois Law

Nevada Law

California Public Advisory

Washington Code

Pennsylvania Code

  • Know the actual drafting of legislation for formal introduction is typically done by an attorney within the legislature, often attached to a particular legislative committee. Make sure the sponsor has contact information for attorneys at the Student Press Law Center who can provide legal background information and analysis on any bill language.
  • Keep in contact with the attorneys at the Student Press Law Center who can provide legal background information and analysis on any bill language.

Step 5: Don’t ignore the name

  • North Dakota’s bill was named after a well-loved congressman.

Step 6: Find more journalism allies (involve all those included in the bill)

  • Look to state school board, principal and local news associations.
  • Contact your state news association. See if its lobbyist would help.
  • Send a press release to state papers with a clear rationale for why the legislation is needed.
  • Follow-up and offer to meet with the media either in person or virtually (depending on location). Explain your position on that issue and why such legislation is important.
  • Remember, media outlets may not embrace the legislation. Some may view administrative roles as that of the publisher of news media. In student media, because principals and administrators often function as a state official, their approving content could equate to a state official approving student voices prior to publishing.
  • Note that the stance of individual commercial news outlets may be different from the stance of professional journalism organizations.
  • Many groups may be supportive including the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, the National Education Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.
  • Keep in mind, however, that certain organizations can be more beneficial in background roles. The core group may need to be selective about other groups with which it chooses to associate. Know the political climate of your state and what kind of coalition will be most politically beneficial.
  • On the national level, these organizations also have expressed some willingness to support student free expression legislation in individual states. Some national organizations already have drafted statements of support: Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC), National Council of Teachers of English, American Bar Association, American Society of News Editors and the Society of Professional Journalists.

JEA’s SPRC endorses legislation on a state-by-state basis. Contact us here to request an endorsement.

Previous endorsements can be found here.

  • University and college journalism departments are another possible source of support.

Step 7: Find legislative allies

  • The initial focus should be on legislators on the committee where the bill is likely to be referred, often the education or judiciary committee. Notify advisers if their schools are in those districts if they don’t already know.
  • If the bill sponsor is fully engaged, s/he may be very helpful in garnering support from fellow legislators.
  • Pay particular attention early in the process to the committee chair, who is the one who will likely decide whether or not the bill receives a public hearing and vote.
  • Prepare a concise, one-page statement about the bill with a list of supporting organizations that can be shared in a short meeting.
  • Seek bipartisan support if at all possible. Fighting censorship is not a left-wing or right-wing cause, and student free expression legislation should not be a partisan issue.
  • Once legislators and the public begin to believe the issue is being pushed primarily by one party, that perception can be difficult to change.
  • Show examples of both liberal and conservative censored content.
  • Become familiar with lobbyists who may either help or hurt your cause, depending on who they represent. Seek to know who they are and their motives.
  • Know their position. If they represent a sympathetic group, say the ACLU, they may be able to feed you information on where certain legislators stand on the issue, or what their concerns are.

STEP SIX: Introduce the bill.

  • Legislators in the core group, as well as those who join the effort in step three, will help get the bill sent to a friendly committee when possible. A friendly committee is one where the group can identify at least some support.
  • Remember, those who provided feedback from past efforts have discouraged bill introduction in the education committee, saying its members are too closely linked with school administrators’ organizations to be very open to a proposed bill of this nature.
  • They recommend a judiciary committee as one that might have a stronger disposition to a civil rights issue. Most states have two chambers in their legislatures, and those involved in past efforts said they selected one or the other to introduce the bill based on where they found the strongest supporters.
  • Make sure to have allies in both chambers though. In many legislatures, the House speaker’s or Senate president’s office is responsible for the committee referral process.

Step 9: Two approaches …

Talk with your sponsors about which approach might work better. Collaboration on this is key.

Approach 1:

  • Some states have had opposition from school board and principal associations. Meet with representatives from these early in the process to explain the need for legal clarification of the roles of administrators and student journalists. (See second two for talking points.)
  • Be aware that your most logical allies may not initially be helpful. For example, professional media outlets sometimes view school administrators as being in the role of publishers. Know that state education unions may poison the water for conservative legislators.

Approach 2:

  • In some instances the opposite tactic may be successful: Downplay the legislation and try to avoid publicity whenever possible. While this likely won’t stop formal, organized opposition, it may curb the enthusiasm of opponents and prevent misconceptions from taking hold with the general public.

If there are local school officials who have gone on record in support of a free scholastic press, enlist them. Secure their commitment to testify on behalf of the bill once it is introduced.

Step 10: Host a lobby day

Prior to the lobby day:

  • Know many feel this: “I feel like I’m the only person who cares.” Know community is important.
  • Invite friends to lobby days.
  • Remember, they represent the people in their area. It’s important constituents contact them, so try to find people they represent to visit them on lobby day.
  • Examine legislators’ voting records to see what they’ve supported in the past. Find common ground.
  • Work to find constituents of those visiting from those on all sides of the bill.
  • Make appointments ahead of time, but be flexible. The legislator may get pulled to the floor.
  • Review the talking points and counter arguments with those speaking with legislators.
  • Set up appointments. Be early and flexible. Bills may come up, hearings might get scheduled, etc.
  • Could partner people (put someone new with someone who has experience or for those anxious about meetings).
  • Have a meeting point. Maybe your local teacher’s union’s office could host and your student press association supplies lunch and water.
  • Update lobby page site with talking points.
  • Remember, best way to contact is in person. Second best is phone and third is email or in writing.

Make the stories personal for each legislator.

  • They don’t want to hear numbers, they want stories.
  • Tell why the bill exists and is needed.
  • Tell why it matters to you — even if they disagree with the bill.
  • Show the impact of a person from their district.

On lobby day

  • Know the talking points.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Know the bill number(s).
  • Thank them.
  • Call them by name.
  • Avoid childish threats “I put you here and if you don’t vote my way, I’ll see you’re taken out.”
  • Be an adult.
  • If they will not support the bill, you can express disappointment.
  • End on a high note (Thank you for your time …. ).
  • Visit those who are in support of the bill to thank them for their support. Don’t skip the allies. They need encouragement — “Thank you for doing the right thing.” Lift them up. Legislators can feel quite downtrodden.
  • Be concise.
  • They often will leave the floor to talk to a constituent, but not a random person.
  • Be as prepared as possible.
  • Know you can ask people to cosponsor or take their names off bills.
  • Know the counter arguments.
  • Don’t argue or act childish with anyone who opposed the bill. Don’t get combatant. Remember to act respectfully and thank the legislator for the time.
  • Opinions are important to them — get them from their community members.
  • Don’t be intimidated. They are normal people too.
  • Address them properly (with title).
  • Only provide verifiable information. If you don’t know something, say you’ll follow-up on the information. You can also ask if it is ok if you put them in touch with the person who knows the information.

After lobby day

  • Use a feedback form that states how they will vote and the level of support.
  • Send everyone visited a thank you note or postcard — even if the legislator is opposed to the bill.

Step 11: Attend committee hearing

Typically, a legislative committee schedules a hearing on the bill for supporters and

opponents to testify.

 Core group members should make a special effort to:

1) Demonstrate as much support as possible for the bill by having a large number of well-mannered individuals attend the hearing clearly identified as supporters (perhaps wearing the same color to show unity);

and 2) select the most articulate students, teachers, commercial journalists, scholars and others to testify in support of the bill.

  •  It’s helpful if supporters coordinate in advance of the hearing, assigning each person a slightly different perspective to discuss. Select people to testify from varying geographical parts of the state and from schools of different sizes so a broad base of support is clearly evident.
  • Those wishing to testify should bring their brief remarks typed up and copied to present to both committee members and the news media.
  • Only a few can actually testify before the committee in most cases, and any member of the public who signs up to testify may be called.
  • Examine guidelines or rules. Some states may have time limits on speakers.
  • Committee chairs may also have their own lists, prepared in advance, of people they want to call for testimony. The core group should pick the best possible representatives to sign up, especially those with stories to tell that legislators might find compelling.
  • When opponents of the bill testify, treat them with respect.
  • Supporters should anticipate what opponents will say and be prepared to rebut those arguments or neutralize them in advance.
  • After the hearing, supporters can hit the committee members hard with phone calls,
  • office visits and letters.
  • Group members must remember that legislators are working for them and they have both a right and obligation to tell legislators how they would like them to vote – and why.

When and if the bill comes up for a committee vote is usually at the sole discretion of thechair. This can happen as soon as the day of the hearing or many weeks later. Legislatures impose their own deadlines, which supporters should know. Check the legislature’s website oryour sponsor’s office for upcoming hearing information.

Ongoing steps to support the legislation:

Assuming the bill passes out of committee, the same lobbying process should occur at the next level. The core group can send out a sample letter to all the high school journalism advisers in the state scholastic press association, asking them to write their legislators in support of the bill. See sample here.  

  • Journalism teachers can set aside a block of time for their students to write letters or postcards.
  • Could have a letter-writing campaign — even student governments and debate clubs have organized letter-writing campaigns in support of free expression legislation.

Step 12:

  • Once the bill passes one chamber, it usually moves into a committee in the other chamber where the process begins again.
  • Support must be continuous throughout all of this process. In many states, bills died somewhere along the way. When this happened, supporters had to remind themselves that losing once (or even twice) didn’t mean the battle was over.
  • If the bill died, start planning for the next legislative session and work to garner the support of those legislators who went against them the first time.


This is just an introduction to the legislative process and how it has worked in some states. Much more could be said, and other state groups might have vastly different experiences. Elsewhere in this blueprint are supporting materials and lists of individuals and organizations that have been involved in the process already or who have expressed an interest in being involved. We urge you to contact them directly if you would like to know more about their perspectives on the battle for student free expression legislation.


How much is this going to cost schools?

Absolutely nothing. In fact, it might save districts money in the long run by protecting them from legal liability.

Why shouldn’t students be subject to censorship? After all, commercial journalists are subject to editing.

Editors of commercial media news are not employed by the government; the work they edit is work-for-hire. Student journalists are not employed by the school. School administrators are, in fact, government officials. The First Amendment was crafted to protect U.S. citizens from government censorship. Student speech is protected by the First Amendment, as long as it is lawful and does not cause a “substantial disruption” of the educational process. The Student Press Law Center provides the legal definition of what is considered, by law, to be “unprotected speech.”

Commercial journalists do not seek permission from their primary sources to publish information and, in fact, have a longstanding tradition of not letting sources see stories before publication. Administrators are primary sources for student journalists. The temptation to censor can be irresistible for administrators, especially in cases when they do not agree with the subject matter or fear that content might reflect poorly on them and their schools.

Why should we limit the censorship authority of administrators over student media produced on school time with school resources?

Allowing genuine student media outlets that provide students with a meaningful voice on issues that truly matter to them can be a threatening idea to those used to controlling the message. However, we have a First Amendment because, as a nation, we decided that free and independent media play a vital role in our democracy – even if they sometimes are messier than state-controlled media. The fact that student media is produced using school resources does not empower administrators to dictate content. Advisers and administrators are responsible for teaching students so they can make informed content choices.

Fortunately, a number of administrators don’t look upon their student media as adversaries or threats. Instead, they view independent student media as important school assets. They see the value in providing students with forums to express their concerns, and recognize the educational opportunities provided by strong, well-supported student journalism programs.

(The Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends being able to cite specific examples of support from administrators in your state.)

“A core value of being a journalist is to understand the role of the press in a free society. That

role is to provide an independent source of information so that a citizen can make informed

decisions. It is often the case that this core value of journalistic independence requires a

journalist to question authority rather than side with authority. Thus, if the role of the press in a democratic society is to have any value, all journalists – including student journalists – must be allowed to publish viewpoints contrary to those of state authorities without intervention or

censorship by the authorities themselves. Without protection, the freedoms of speech and press are meaningless and the press becomes a mere channel for official thought.”

– Judge Arthur Tarnow

Dean v. Utica Community Schools

Are schools liable for content in student media?

There has never been a reported court decision where a public school or school district has been held legally responsible for content in student media. This legislation ensures that school districts and school administrators are protected from lawsuits. With this law, students would be legally responsible for content in their media – not school officials or school departments.

Does this legislation give students the right to publish whatever they want?

No. This law does not protect unlawful speech – the same categories of speech that every journalist must avoid (libel, material that invades a person’s legal right to privacy, obscenity as to minors, etc.). The law also imposes an additional category of speech restriction specific to schools: High school students cannot publish speech that would materially and substantially disrupt normal school activities. This establishes a meaningful balance between administrative authority to maintain a safe and effective learning environment and student free speech rights.

What about the questionable stories published in student media?

Such incidents have occurred, but they are certainly the exception rather than the rule. The majority of student media outlets practice journalism in a responsible manner.

The ability to cover important issues without censorship, promotes a safe and healthy school environment. Students don’t just complain about the cafeteria food. They confront real issues, especially those which are relevant to teens. While it may make administrators uncomfortable, students often cite real safety concerns in their schools. They may cite the need for repairs that have been ignored, especially those that are outside the public view to which students have access, such as locker rooms, student bathrooms, and most classrooms. They often bring about change as a result of their vigilance, courage and honesty. The greater good of the students and staff supercedes the reluctance of administrators to hide the truth. They need to be held accountable by the public for not securing a facility properly. Often, board of education members will discover something that they all have read only in the school newspaper, and will investigate the matter once the conditions are exposed.

(The Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends being able to cite specific examples from your state’s student publications in support of this.)

What effect do free student media have on the school climate?

School communities need and deserve stories that reflect the authentic student experience. Giving students a voice actually can help guard against disruptive and potentially dangerous behavior by shedding light on issues of concern and empowering the powerless. In fact, coverage of sensitive and important issues often can affect positive change.

(The Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends being able to cite specific examples from your state’s student publications in support of this.)

How do students benefit from involvement in school journalism programs?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills

The journalism classroom is the perfect setting in which to nurture 21st-century readiness in students. It incorporates critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation.

“To successfully face rigorous higher education coursework, career challenges and a globally competitive workforce, U.S. schools must align classroom environments with real world environments by fusing the three Rs and four Cs.”

Source for entire document:

“Washington Free Student Press Law FAQ” by Mike Hiestand.

See it for additional talking points.

Resource list

This resource list is intended to be a repository to help those in various stages of working on New Voices legislation. Please email SPRC Director Lori Keekley if you know of a resource that should be included.

A list of endorsements and studies that support New Voices

  • Endorsements from:

The National Council of Teachers of English, American Society of News Editors, Society of Professional Journalists, Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC).

North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler says New Voices is working well in her state. She discusses how the New Voices Act is helping administrators and teachers provide a better learning experience for North Dakota students.

  •  Study

A 2015 survey of 900+ high school journalists by the University of Kansas confirms a link between working in a supportive environment respectful of First Amendment values and an increased sense of civic efficacy (the ability to use media to advocate for change).

  • Articles:

Hazelwood at 25,” published Feb. 6, 2013, in Education Week, by Frank LoMonte.

High School Students, Teachers Confront Student Media Censorship” by Mark Goodman

“High school students, teachers experience student media censorship

“High school students, teachers report student media censorship”

Myth Busting pdf can be found at the bottom of the the resources.


Additional articles not included on the list but beneficial:

From the American School Board Journal concerning the importance of a free student press:

Former SPLC director, Frank LoMonte’s discussion of the issue in the Baltimore Sun, prior to the successful passage of the New Voices act. bs-ed-student-journalists-20160303-story.html

Other resources

JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee

The SPRC can connect student free expression advocates with scholastic journalism leaders in your state or region and help provide related information.

Student Press Law Center

The SPLC has collected current and historical information about student free press legislation and has experts who can offer opinions about legislative language. In addition to those listed here, Nevada, Vermont and Illinois have legislation protecting student journalists voice.

“Mythbusting” student free press laws (SPLC)

The SPLC has published answers to challenges which groups may have to this movement and legislation.

Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University

CSJ hosted a conference on student free expression legislation in 2016. Videos of the panels presented during that event are viewable here.

American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU’s advocacy on behalf of the civil rights of young people and contacts with state legislators may be useful.

National and regional scholastic press associations

People for the American Way

This left-leaning advocacy organization is a defender of student free expression rights.

National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers

The national teachers’ unions and their state affiliates have supported legislation protecting the rights of teachers.

Society of Professional Journalists

The nation’s most broad-based national organization of working journalists has local chapters around the country that work on press freedom issues.

National Council of Teachers of English

The National Council of Teachers of English is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education. NCTE adopted this official “Resolution on the Importance of Journalism Courses and Programs in English Curricula” at their national conference in 2004:

National Council for the Social Studies

Social studies educators teach students the content knowledge, intellectual skills, and civic values necessary for fulfilling the duties of citizenship in a participatory democracy. The mission of National Council for the Social Studies is to provide leadership, service, and support for all social studies educators.

Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

CIRCLE conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.

American Library Association

Founded on Oct. 6, 1876 during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the American Library Association was created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. Included in their strategic plan is a call for “continued work in the areas of … Education and Lifelong Learning, Equitable Access to Information and Library Services, Intellectual Freedom, and Literacy”


What should a student free expression law include?

Thirteen states have enacted student free expression laws. The Student Press Law Center has offered its own proposed language for such legislation, which the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee endorses. Thus, there are multiple options to choose from for language for student free expression legislation (see state legislation above).

Based on our experience as journalism educators who have participated in these efforts over the last 25 years, and our observation of how those laws enacted have been applied, we (the Scholastic Press Rights Committee) recommend several elements we believe must be included in any proposed legislation:

  • A general provision protecting the rights of students to determine the content of the student media they produce. This provision should specify school-sponsored student media, but can include protections for other student speech at school as well. Sample language:

Students of the public schools shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press including, but not limited to, the publication of expression in school-sponsored publications and other news media, whether or not such media or other means of expression are supported financially by the school or by use of school facilities or are produced in conjunction with a class.

  • A provision that clearly spells out the types of student expression that are not protected by the legislation. Vague and undefined language can create more problems than it solves. Clarity is important to ensure that students, teachers and school administrators understand the law to mean the same thing. The example below uses legally defined language and/or includes legal definitions.

Nothing in this section shall be interpreted to authorize expression by students that: 1) is obscene as to minors as defined by state law; 2) is libelous or slanderous as defined by state law; 3) constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy as defined by state law; or 4) so incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. School officials must base a forecast of material and substantial disruption on specific facts, including past experience in the school and current events influencing student behavior, and not on undifferentiated fear or apprehension.

  • A provision that specifically protects student media advisers from retribution based on content decisions that their students have made. Sample language:

It shall be the responsibility of a journalism adviser or advisers of student media within each school to supervise the production of the school-sponsored media and maintain the provisions of this statute. This statute shall not be construed to prevent an adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to the student staff. No journalism adviser will be fired, transferred or removed from his or her position for refusing to suppress the protected free expression rights of student journalists.

  • A provision that protects schools or school officials from liability for content decisions students make. Lawsuits based on the content of student publications are extremely rare. But including protection from liability takes away one of the major justifications school officials offer for requiring censorship. Sample language:

No expression made by students in the exercise of free speech or free press rights shall be deemed to be an expression of school policy, and no school officials or school district shall be held responsible in any civil or criminal action for any expression made or published by students unless school officials have interfered with or altered the content of the student expression.

In addition, the Scholastic Press Rights Committee suggests consideration of the following provisions to accompany a legislative proposal:

  • A prohibition on school administrators requiring prior review or approval of student media content before publication. The Journalism Education Association finds the practice of administrative prior review educationally unsound and has condemned it in an official policy statement. It also cites the need for teachers to empower student voices in its Adviser Code of Ethics.

Sample language:

No student media, whether school-sponsored or nonschool-sponsored, will be subject to prior review by school administrators.

  • Protection for off-campus student speech. The Scholastic Press Rights Committee believes that in order to prepare students for life in a democracy, independent student speech that occurs outside of school should receive the same protection as the speech of any community member.
  • Protection for college and university student speech. Several states have included provisions ensuring free media and free speech protection for college students in the same bills that protected high school students. Some believe the public’s strong support for college media freedom will increase the chances of enacting high school protections when they are combined.

Others are hesitant to draw college students, who have generally been afforded stronger First Amendment protection by the courts, into the debate. For more information about student free expression legislation, see the Student Press Law Center’s website.



For immediate release


SAMPLE LEAD GRAPH: (Name of coalition or group), a group concerned with freedom

of expression in (insert your state here)’s public secondary schools, announced today a

legislative campaign to end censorship and prior review of student media by school officials.

SAMPLE QUOTE: “We need to create an atmosphere in which student journalists can undertake the work for which they are ideally suited: addressing the issue of school climate in

our public schools,” said Chairperson (insert name here). “There is a need for real stories that reflect the authentic student experience and for robust coverage of all segments in a school community. We need to harness that power in positive ways that the current climate of prior review and prior restraint will not allow.”

SAMPLE TRANSITION: When school officials engage in censoring student media, they

effectively muzzle students. (Cite specific incidents in your state here, such as censorship of articles about hazing or school violence … )

SAMPLE GRAPH ON SUPPORTING GROUPS: Chairperson (insert name here) said the group will work to introduce a bill in this session of the legislature based on model legislation developed by the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C. Among the sponsors for the bill are (insert list and short bios here).

Similar legislation has been passed into law in 13 other states, including Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont. In addition, numerous school districts across the nation have adopted policies eliminating prior review and prior restraint of student media.

SAMPLE QUOTE: “Student media are where our youth best learn the rights and responsibilities that go with freedom of expression,” (chairperson) said. “If we teach them in high school that the government has the right to tell them what they can and cannot say, they will carry that lesson with them for the rest of their lives. A democracy cannot afford for its citizens to accept that kind of governmental intrusion.”

SAMPLE COUNTER POINT: (chairperson) pointed out that one common argument for administrative control of student media is just plain wrong.

“Administrators often say they are worried about the possibility of being sued over the content of student media. That is true only as long as they control the content. As soon as students take over responsibility for content, students become legally responsible for content.Schools cannot be sued for what students decide to publish in media that have been set free from administrative review. Our bill will underline that point.”

(She or he) said the lawsuit issue is a red herring in any event. There is no published court decision where a school district has been held legally responsible for content published when students were making the content decisions.

“Students have an admirable safety record in that regard,” (she or he) said, explaining that journalism teachers and advisers spend considerable time educating students about both media law and journalism ethics before students write their first stories. “It’s amazing what students can accomplish when they feel a sense of ownership,” (she or he) said. “Unfortunately, under the current situation in our state, that happens too infrequently.”


Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A Blueprint for Success” was compiled by a subcommittee of the Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Committee during its retreat in March, 2012. This version is an update on this work.

Much of this document is the compilation of material from works by others who have been involved directly or indirectly in crafting and promoting student press rights legislation around the country. This Blueprint draws from these sources the lessons learned from the successes, as well as lessons learned from attempts to pass legislation that did not succeed.

Key to this work are documents from the Student Press Law Center’s archives: Student Free Expression Legislation: Coalition building and lobbying by students and teachers; 1990 (author not identified)

For students, by students: Young journalists with help from legislators, propose anti-Hazelwood bills to restore free press rights; SPLC Report, Spring 2009 (Vol. XXX) Press laws: by Kate Maternowsi

Understanding student free-expression laws: Renewed push to pass state laws as courts chip away at First Amendment rights in schools; SPLC Report, Fall 2007, Vol. XXVIII, no. 3, page 30 (author not identified)

Model Legislation to Protect Student Free Expression Rights; 2000, SPLC Legal ResearchArchives

From the National Scholastic Press Association blog archives:

Washington Free Press Law FAQ, by Mike Hiestand; NSPA News and Notes – It’s the Law, Feb. 1, 2007

For thoughts from administrators who value a healthy and robust student media, see the following articles:

National Association of Secondary School Principals

American Association of School Administrators


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