Legislature passes new protections for student newspapers

If signed, the new law will also protects student advisers who defend the free speech rights of student journalists.

A bill expanding free speech for high school and college newspapers passed both chambers by wide margins in the last hours before the legislative cutoff on March 2. The bill now heads to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk where it awaits a signature.

SB 5064, sponsored by Senator Joe Fain, R-Auburn, allows student newspapers to determine their own content without mandatory prior review.

Fain introduced the bill following in the footsteps of former legislator and now King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, who introduced it in 2005.

The bill challenges a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1988, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier. In that case the court ruled that high school educators can have editorial control over a school-sponsored newspaper when they have a legitimate educational concern such as poorly written, biased, or obscene articles.

The standard the new bill sets is based on the less-strict Tinker standard from Tinker v. Des Moines in Iowa in 1969, almost 20 years before the Hazelwood ruling. In Tinker, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in order for a school to suppress free speech, the speech must “materially and substantially interfere” with students’ education or the school’s operation.

“Practicing journalism in its full capacity better prepares students to pursue a career in journalism and equips them with the critical thinking, research, and writing skills that lead to more engaged citizens,” Fain said in a prepared statement.

The bill also prohibits school administrators from disciplining student advisers for protecting students’ free speech rights. The last part of the bill protects school officials from civil liability if an article were deemed libelous. Advisers are still allowed to help students make difficult decisions, but the final say lies with the student editor.

“It is important that they (student journalists) understand the power of the press, the power of free speech and not just what that gives them, but also the obligations it brings,” Representative Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, said during floor debate in the House.

This report was produced by the Olympia bureau of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

More in Northwest

The 2015 Wolverine Fire in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest near Lake Chelan. Photo courtesy of the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
The smoky summer that wasn’t

While Washington had a mild season, wildfires burned near the Arctic.

Dane Scarimbolo and Dominique Torgerson run Four Horsemen Brewery in Kent. They were almost shut down in late 2017 by King County, which after years of letting them operate a brewery and taproom, decided they were in violation of county code. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Proposed winery ordinance irks King County farmers, neighbors and businesses

Concerns include more traffic, higher land prices, code enforcement and compliance.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Kim Schrier held a roundtable at the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank on Oct. 3 to talk about the Trump administration’s plan to further change SNAP food benefits rules and reduce the number of people using them. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo
Murray, Schrier vow to fight White House restrictions on food stamps

Senator and Representative met Oct. 3 at Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.

King County is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals, but emissions also have not been rising with population growth. File photo
King County isn’t on track to meet emissions goals

The goals were ambitious but progress has been slow.

Several roads in King County, including the Snoqualmie Parkway, were closed when a brief snow storm struck the region last February. File photo
More roads in King County could be plowed during winter storms

Proposal targets 70 more miles in unincorporated areas.

King County is considering ways to increase both the supply of and demand for compost to help divert organic material from the landfill. File photo
King County wants to boost composting market

In 2018, around one-third of material sent to regional landfill could have been composted.

Bellevue is the most expensive place in the region to rent an apartment, according to a new analysis. Courtesy photo
Several Eastside cities are among most expensive to rent in Northwest

Bellevue topped the list for highest apartment rents during the first half of 2019.

VoteWA is a $9.5 million program that came online last May and is meant to unify all 39 county voting systems in the state into a single entity. Courtesy image
WA’s new voting system concerns county elections officials

VoteWA has run into some problems in recent months as the Aug. 6 primary election draws closer.

‘Feedback loops’ of methane, CO2 echo environmental problem beyond Washington

University of Washington among researchers of climate change’s effects in global temperatures.

PSE’s battery storage project could help the clean energy roll-out

The tiny pilot project in Glacier could eventually be expanded.

Courtesy photo
King County Sheriff’s Office has been giving ICE unredacted information

Both the office and jail have supplied the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Mukilteo schools may soon have state’s highest paid teachers

Teachers ratified a new contract Monday and the Board of Education will consider it next month.