ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — On February 28, more than 50 high school student journalists and teachers traveled to Albany to push for the passage of the Student Journalist Free Speech Act. The Act ensures that student journalists determine the content of school-sponsored media, except in specific circumstances.
This is the sixth year the legislature has considered this legislation, which has broad bipartisan support. The Student Press Law Center explains 16 states, including New Jersey, Vermont, and Massachusetts, have already passed similar legislation, known nationwide as “New Voices laws.”
Students from the coalition New Voices New York, visited legislators, Assemblymembers, and Senators to urge support for the legislation. Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo who sponsors the act along with Senator Brian Kavanagh states, “The legislation I’m sponsoring with Senator Kavanagh is about promoting student journalism, at a time when ethical, unbiased reporting is often in short supply.” Student Press Law Center explains the need for the legislation stems from a 1988 Supreme Court decision known as Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, in which the Court said school officials could censor the content of school-sponsored media as long as there was a “legitimate pedagogical concern.” According to New Voices New York, the Court’s lack of definition about what constitutes such a concern has been viewed by some school officials as authorizing censorship of student media for virtually any reason.
Genevieve Lopez, a student journalist from Curtis High School says, “School should be a place where students can learn and grow, and by talking about potentially taboo topics students are able to ask questions and form their own opinions on those topics.” Another journalist student, Janna Habibulla, from Townsend Harris High School adds, “The educational experience we’ve had at Townsend Harris – learning to take on the difficult stories while cherishing our responsibility to showcase our school’s many achievements – is something every student in New York deserves, and the Student Journalist Free Speech Act has the power to give that to them.”