In just a few days' time, school administrators in Washington state may no longer get the final call on what publishes in their school newspapers – students will.
On March 5, the state Senate approved the amended version of Senate Bill 5064, a bill that's been introduced in various forms since 1992, including four times in the last decade. The vote count was 45 to 4. If the New Voices Act is signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington will become the last state on the West Coast (and 14th state in the nation) to sign a law protecting student journalism from censorship (with a few exceptions for libel or otherwise illegal content).
The law also protects journalism teachers against reassignment or firing and prevents legal action against districts or school officials based on student reporting.
The bill remained largely in tact as it moved through the House and Senate with the exception of a few amendments: content published in school-sponsored media cannot harass or bully students, violate FCC regulations or incite the breaking of school rules.