Bill would grant unobscured scholastic press rights

2 Mar

HB5902 in Judiciary-Civil Committee

A much-anticipated bill protecting the press rights of Illinois public high school student journalists was filed Thursday, Feb. 11, in the state House of Representatives by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39).

The proposed legislation, House Bill 5902, comes almost two decades after then-Gov. Jim Edgar’s veto derailed an IJEA-backed student press rights initiative in 1997.

new voicesThe new bill, also known as the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act, provides the following key protections for student journalists and their advisers:

• A student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media is supported financially by the school district or by use of school facilities or produced in conjunction with a class in which the student is enrolled. (HB 5902, section 10)

• A student journalist is responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media. (HB 5902, section 10)

• An employee of a school district shall not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against solely for acting to protect a student journalist engaged in conduct authorized under the proposed act. (HB 5902, section 20)

The bill does not authorize or protect expression by a student journalist that:

(1) is libelous or slanderous;
(2) constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy;
(3) violates federal or State law; or
(4) so incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act, the violation of policies of the school district, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. (HB 5902, section 15)

“Participating in journalism is one of the best ways for our students to get civically engaged,” Guzzardi told the Student Press Law Center‘s Kaitlyn DeWulf in a recent article. “And House Bill 5902 will ensure that our young journalists are prepared for careers in media and public life.”

The filing came after IJEA board members Stan Zoller and Brenda Field spent three and a half weeks working with and communicating with various legislators. Their efforts eventually led them to Guzzardi, a first-term representative who won his Northwest Side Chicago election in 2014 at the age of 26.

Zoller is chairman of IJEA’s Legislation Committee, which is behind New Voices of Illinois, part of the nationwide New Voices effort to roll back the power of public school administrators to censor student journalists. New Voices USA is led by attorney Frank LoMonte, head of the Student Press Law Center.

Field, who advises the award-winning Etruscan yearbook at Glenbrook South High School, is national JEA‘s Illinois state director.

“Our initial meeting was with Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-57) in early January,” Zoller said. “We met with Nekritz on the recommendation of the Illinois Press Association because of her support for press rights issues in the past. She and her aide contacted Guzzardi on our behalf. Guzzardi is a former journalist and very energetic.”

FULL TEXT OF HB 5902:

AN ACT concerning education.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:

Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act.

Section 5. Definitions. As used in this Act:

“School-sponsored media” means any material that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast by a student journalist at a public school, distributed or generally made available to members of the student body, and prepared under the direction of a student media adviser. School-sponsored media does not include media intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classroom in which the media is produced.

“Student journalist” means a public high school student who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media.

“Student media adviser” means an individual employed, appointed, or designated by a school district to supervise or provide instruction relating to school-sponsored media.

Section 10. Free speech. Except as otherwise provided in Section 15 of this Act, a student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media is supported financially by the school district or by use of school facilities or produced in conjunction with a class in which the student is enrolled. Subject to Section 15 of this Act, a student journalist is responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media. This Section shall not be construed to prevent a student media adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to student journalists.

Section 15. Exceptions. This Act does not authorize or protect expression by a student journalist that:

(1) is libelous or slanderous;
(2) constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy;
(3) violates federal or State law; or
(4) so incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act, the violation of policies of the school district, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.

Section 20. Protections for authorized conduct. An employee of a school district shall not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred, or otherwise retaliated against solely for acting to protect a student journalist engaged in conduct authorized under this Act or refusing to infringe upon conduct that is protected by this Act, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or Section 4 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution.

Section 99. Effective date. This Act takes effect upon becoming law.

– See more at: http://www.ijea.net/5836/press-on/ijea-news/bill-preventing-censorship-of-high-school-journalists-introduced-in-illinois-house/#sthash.EyovIqhe.dpuf

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