Legislature passes new protections for student newspapers

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.




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

t
Renton community safety forum targets crime stats, domestic violence

Renton Police chief says when he first started it was rare to have a firearm incident on the street

Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times / Pool
Jeffrey Nelson at his trial May 16.
Jurors continue to hear testimony in murder case against Auburn officer

Jeffrey Nelson is the first officer in Washington to face a murder charge following the passage of I-940.

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Maple Valley day care employee charged with sex offenses

Federal Way man was employed at Discovery Playtown

t
Man killed by sheriff’s deputies in Auburn identified

Multiple shots fired during May 24 eviction

Chris Reykdal
State superintendent of schools says student privacy won’t diminish

Chris Reykdal: Federal protections for privacy remain despite state’s new parental bill of rights

State Capitol in Olympia. FILE PHOTO
Hundreds of new laws will take effect in state June 6

Legislature approved changes in police pursuits, parental rights, firearms and other laws

t
Renton Police seek suspects in homicide outside restaurant | Photos

19-year-old man shot May 18 in the 100 block of Airport Way

Photo Courtesy of Ivonne Carillo-Hernandez
Reyna Hernandez (left) with her mother.
Extradition efforts continue in case of murdered Renton salon owner

Louie Hernandez, 61, remains in custody of Mexican law enforcement officials

Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. FILE PHOTO
Second-degree murder trial pending for Federal Way man

Case is related to the 2021 robbery of a cannabis shop in Renton.

A firearm retrieved from the suspect’s vehicle. Photo courtesy of Washington State Patrol
Federal Way woman arrested for allegedly brandishing a firearm on freeway

Once in June 2023 and again in May 2024, the suspect allegedly pointed her gun at others

Courtesy Photo, King County
Former King County jail guard pleads guilty to bribery, drug charges

Accepted bribe to distribute meth, fentanyl to two jail inmates

t
Investigators bust drug trafficking operation in King County

Thousands of fentanyl pills reportedly were kept at a Federal Way storage facility.