Deadline Club Overwhelmingly Supports Student Journalist Free Speech Act


NEW YORK, NY, February 2018 – The Deadline Club of New York is calling upon the New York State Legislature to stop school-based censorship and restore students’ rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

The club’s unanimous vote of support for the proposed legislation, known as the Student Journalist Free Speech Act, is an important step in the statewide effort for passage of the bill, Senate 7721/ Assembly 9801, during the current legislative session.

Thirteen U.S. states have laws that give students full First Amendment rights, essentially reversing the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier that allows school officials to freely censor student-run publications because they are not “forums for public expression.”

Restrictions on public expression by students, which currently can be employed by school districts and colleges alike in New York State, are anathema to the First Amendment, according to the resolution approved by the club’s executive board. The resolution acknowledges school-based censorship as “detrimental to learning, teaching and our democracy.”

The resolution states, in part, “Many schools in our city and state operate under policies or practices that unintentionally violate core journalistic principles… For the past 30 years, The Hazelwood [School District v. Kuhlmeier] level of authority has invited unduly heavy-handed censorship for illegitimate purposes, educationally and journalistically…No legitimate civic engagement, civic participation or pedagogical purpose is served by censoring of student journalism.”

“The First Amendment of the Constitution does not include any mention of age; it was intended to protect the rights of all Americans who pursue this noble profession — students included,” said Claire Regan, president of the club and an assistant professor of journalism at Wagner College. The Deadline Club has long supported student journalists with its annual scholarship program.

“In the many communities that don’t have local news outlets, student publications act as neighborhood watchdogs,” said Executive Council member Katina Paron, director of the NYC High School Journalism Collaborative at Baruch College. “The legislation holds a high bar for student journalists and protects them, and their advisers, from unnecessary and harmful interventions.”

The Deadline Club is the New York Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. This legislation is part of a national movement to support student journalists, organized by the Student Press Law Center. The Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of News Editors have endorsed the movement as well. The full text of the resolution appears below.

The Deadline Club’s Endorsement of STUDENT JOURNALIST FREE SPEECH ACT Legislation in New York

New York needs legislation stipulating that students are responsible for determining the content of student publications. Many schools in our city and state operate under policies or practices that unintentionally violate core journalistic principles; restrict the authentic learning at the heart of national, state and local educational goals; require staff to operate in violation of or outside of their expertise and training; fail to model thoughtful ethical or democratic behavior; invite significant legal risk for school districts; and suppress a learning atmosphere based on curiosity, trust, and responsibility.

The Deadline Club Board of Governors has long been aware of the negative impact on student publications because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. The Deadline Club takes a strong stand on the unwarranted abuse of Hazelwood as an easy tool of censorship against student journalists on all levels, including that of colleges and universities.

New York students deserve statewide legislation that would provide simple, clear, and consistent stipulations that put students first, protect all stakeholders from legal risks or misunderstandings, and follow examples already practiced and proven successful in other states.

Therefore, the Deadline Club Board of Governors declares that no legitimate civic engagement, civic participation or pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism even if it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech is detrimental to effective learning and teaching and to our democracy.

The Deadline Club Board of Governors, therefore, endorses the proposed Student Journalist Free Speech Act legislation.

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