Bill protecting student journalists’ rights currently under discussion

From staff reports

In conversations across the aisle, members of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education are currently discussing concerns they have with a bill, which, if passed, would provide student journalists with full free-speech rights.

“It is too early to tell, but we are staying optimistic about getting support,” Senator Joe Fain (R) said.

Bill 5064 would provide all students, including high school and college students, the ability to exercise their right to freedom of speech and press in any school-sponsored media outlet.

Kathy Schrier, the executive director of the Washington Journalism Education Association (WJEA), said she believes that Bill 5064 is key to protecting student journalists not only in Washington, but across the country.

“It’s important now, more than ever, for states to pass this legislation,” Schrier said. “Once it’s in place, it’s in place and students will be protected.”

She said she believes that now, more than ever, students shouldn’t be graduating from high school or college believing they don’t have a voice.

“We’ll have kids thinking that it’s okay to be told what or what not to think,” Schrier said.

Schrier said the bill is a win-win for both students and school administrators – students would be given the responsibility to report on what is really going on in schools, while administrators would be free from legal responsibility.

Fain believes that the bill is not only about students’ constitutional rights, but about the American culture and for what it stands.

“We need to protect the culture here and uphold laws that promote the free exercise of speech and press,” he said. “All of this is put into peril if society doesn’t respect these values.”

One way he believes society can respect the freedom of speech and press is if they are enshrined in education.

If Bill 5064 passes, Washington will be the 11th state to pass legislation fully protecting student journalists’ rights.

Reporting by Danielle Chiriguayo