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.

More in Northwest

Black Lives Matter meets #MeToo

Columnist Marcus Harrison Green tells us about a troubling rift and the resulting rebirth in the local arm of the social movement.

Photo by Taylor McAvoy
Sexual assault survivors push legislative change

Seeking systematic reforms, victims spoke up this legislative session.

Legislators come to agreement on deadly force reform

The agreement between lawmakers, activists, and police amends the upcoming I-940 ballot initiative.

By Taylor McAvoy
New laws targeting sexual harassment await governor’s pen

Four key bills targeting sexual harassment passed both chambers and were waiting… Continue reading

By Taylor McAvoy
State Legislature passes last-minute budget deal and property tax cut

The plan includes $1 billion for public education and $400 million in tax cuts for property owners.

The matriarch of marijuana

Meet JoAnna McKee, a persistent voice in the ear of wary politicians who didn’t believe that marijuana was medicine. Until they met JoAnna, that is.

By Taylor McAvoy
Olympia stunner: Compromise over police use of force

It was not always a civil process, but two diametrically opposed groups managed to find common ground.

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.

By Taylor McAvoy
Washington State set to expand abortion coverage

With the governor’s signature, the Reproductive Parity Act will allow state funding for abortion and contraception services.

Governor Jay Inslee signs a ban on bump stocks on Tuesday, March. 6. Photo by Taylor McAvoy
Bump stock ban becomes law; semiautomatics bill up next

It will be illegal in Washington to sell or own devices that make semiautomatic guns fire more rapidly.

By Taylor McAvoy
Home healthcare worker bill approved by state Legislature

In protest, House Republicans refused to vote on the controversial bill.

By Taylor McAvoy
Lawmakers are now at odds over a Sound Transit car-tab fix

The Senate and House disagree over whether lost revenue from a lower fee should be offset right away.