New bill would protect school-sponsored media’s free speech rights

DAN DOUCET, Evergreen opinion editor

Washington senators proposed a bill that would solidify free speech protections for high school and college students working in school-sponsored media.

School-sponsored media, according to Bill 5064’s definition, is work written, published or broadcasted to students by students, and is not an expression of the school officials’ opinions or policies, but rather of the students who produce it.

The bill states that student media advisors cannot be disciplined for refusing to censor student media, and that students cannot be required to submit work to school officials for prior review before publishing.

The bill also states that students working for school-sponsored media cannot publish speech that involves libel or slander, invades privacy, violates federal law or regulations or could potentially cause “a clear and present danger.”

This is defined as speech that either incites the breaking of laws on campus, violates school rules or disrupts school operations, according to the bill.

Aside from these restrictions, the bill would guarantee students freedom to choose what content to publish.

Sen. Joe Fain (R) introduced the bill to the Senate on Jan. 11, and it was referred to the Early Learning & K-12 Education committee on Thursday.

13 senators from both sides of the aisle, in addition to Fain, co-sponsored the bill.