Legislature passes new protections for student newspapers

If signed, the new law will also protects student advisers who defend the free speech rights of student journalists.

A bill expanding free speech for high school and college newspapers passed both chambers by wide margins in the last hours before the legislative cutoff on March 2. The bill now heads to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk where it awaits a signature.

SB 5064, sponsored by Senator Joe Fain, R-Auburn, allows student newspapers to determine their own content without mandatory prior review.

Fain introduced the bill following in the footsteps of former legislator and now King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, who introduced it in 2005.

The bill challenges a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1988, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. In that case the court ruled that high school educators can have editorial control over a school-sponsored newspaper when they have a legitimate educational concern such as poorly written, biased, or obscene articles.

The standard the new bill sets is based on the less-strict Tinker standard from Tinker v. Des Moines in Iowa in 1969, almost 20 years before the Hazelwood ruling. In Tinker, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in order for a school to suppress free speech, the speech must “materially and substantially interfere” with students’ education or the school’s operation.

“Practicing journalism in its full capacity better prepares students to pursue a career in journalism and equips them with the critical thinking, research, and writing skills that lead to more engaged citizens,” Fain said in a prepared statement.

The bill also prohibits school administrators from disciplining student advisers for protecting students’ free speech rights. The last part of the bill protects school officials from civil liability if an article were deemed libelous. Advisers are still allowed to help students make difficult decisions, but the final say lies with the student editor.

“It is important that they (student journalists) understand the power of the press, the power of free speech and not just what that gives them, but also the obligations it brings,” Representative Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said during floor debate in the House.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

[flipp]

More in Northwest

Horses seized in Enumclaw after allegations of hoarding, abandonment

Sharon Hunter said the horses would be staying on the land for just a few weeks — but it’s alleged she more or less abandoned them there.

Despite concerns, homelessness authority moves toward final Seattle vote

Seattle’s homelessness committee aligned the city’s plan with King County’s.

King County’s current climate action plan was adopted in 2015 and has provided a blueprint for reducing emissions and preparing for climate change. File photo
King County approves environmental justice provision

An update to the King County climate action plan should include an… Continue reading

Homelessness authority approved by King County, awaits Seattle vote

The agreement would consolidate emergency services for people experiencing homelessness.

The King County Courthouse is located at 516 Third Ave. in downtown Seattle. Photo courtesy of King County
Council approves $600,000 to increase security at King County Courthouse

The funding will be split evenly between increasing deputies, security and social services.

Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is among supporters of statewide “just cause” legislation to protect tenants in Washington. However, some landlords say removing the ability to quickly remove tenants limits their ability to get rid of problem renters. (Courtesy image)
Tenant advocates prepare for another push in Olympia

Following wins in Burien and Federal Way, just cause evictions are on the 2020 Legislative agenda.

Business alliance serves women of African diaspora in King County

Nourah Yonous launched the African Women Business Alliance in 2017 to find ways to lift women up.

Fire along Twisp River Road in the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest in 2018. Courtesy photo
Wildfire response: State unveils funding legislation proposal

Last year, Department of Natural Resources responded to record number of wildfires.

A new report, complete with recommendations to the Legislature, has been released by a statewide task force that was formed to address a lack of child care in Washington. File photo
Report outlines lack of child care in Washington

In King County, supply doesn’t meet demand for child care.

Most Read