Washington’s student journalists will gain greater autonomy under a bill passed by the Legislature this week.
The proposal, which sailed through both the House and Senate by wide margins, prevents administrators from censoring the content of student publications, except in limited instances.
The bill addresses a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gives school officials final say over what runs in student publications. Several states have passed laws restoring independence to student journalists, and this bill seeks to place Washington among them.
The status quo “often limits the topics that can be discussed to those that best reflect on administrators while preventing student journalists from gaining the skills needed to address relevant and sometimes controversial topics,” Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, the bill’s sponsor, said in a video promoting the proposal. “These rulings left student journalists without the final say over what they report, while leaving it up to individual states to protect students’ rights.”
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The bill, if signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, will include exceptions for content that is libelous, breaches privacy, is obscene or incites unlawful activity.