Fight to Protect Student Journalism


Photo remixed from Vimeo Video

New York State Senators Kavanagh, O’Mara and Hoylman are determined to protect the free speech of student journalists in New York. On January 18, 2019, they reintroduced the bill that extends free speech protection to student journalists. A similar bill was drafted last year but died in committee. The movement that inspired these bills is sometimes called the New Voices movement.

With the Student Journalist Free Press Act, students in New York state who produce controversial content in the school’s press are protected from disciplinary or retaliatory actions. These protections are extended to student media advisors and instructors as well. The proposal safeguards all student media, even if the media are publicly funded. Political articles are also covered because the bill insists that student’s political articles are not to be considered the use of public funds for political purposes.

The bill does have some exceptions for student press protections. An expression that is libelous, slanderous or obscene will not be safeguarded. An unwarranted invasion of privacy is not sanctioned. Similarly, speech that violates the policies of the educational institution would not enjoy the free press privilege. Of course, articles that violate federal or state law or incite students to commit an unlawful act could subject to prosecution.

In an interview with Dateline: CUNY editor Katina Paron, Ms. Paron explained that the student free press act would give journalism “more impact, as student media would have a bigger role.” She further pointed to the importance of student journalism departments within educational institutions because student media can build critical thinking skills and affect change.

How to Stand Up for Student Journalism

The New Voices bill last year died in committee. SPS students and faculty can help to ensure that the bill passes this year by contacting their state representatives. This bill affects everyone who cares about student-generated media. As a new and growing publication, even The Kiosk has experienced different types of censorship because there is an inherent lack of understanding of the student journalist’s role. The New Voices movement helps to address that.

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