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Thursday, Mar 04, 2021 at 7:27 pm

High School Journalists Get More Freedom

By Olivia Maniscalco

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Student Journalism Free Speech Act has been reintroduced in New York state by State Senator Brian Kavanaugh and Assemblywomen Donna A. Lupardo. The law protects the rights of student journalists in ensuring their high schools do not censor their work. It is intended to give them the same protections as working journalists have. Currently in the state, school administrations have the final say in what students publish in school newspapers, which means they can censor things that they do not want getting out about the school and other matters. Under the bill, the students would have broad control of their newspapers, but it would still exempt speech that contains libel, invades someone’s property, incites someone to commit an unlawful act, violates school policies, or disrupts the orderly operation of school substantially. 

Newhouse Professor Roy Gutterman was one of three state-wide coordinators on an effort to get the law passed. He is surprised the law has not been passed, stating “you would think that legislators would jump on this as an opportunity to make a statement about free speech and free press values.” It is unclear exactly why this law has not been passed, as similar ones have in other states. Assemblywoman Lupardo reports that she has both conservative and liberal sponsorships for the law, so it is not a matter of partisanship. She feels very passionate about the bill, as she was a young journalist herself. She talked about how with all of the fake news our world has seen in recent years “it has motivated young people to be more civically engaged.” That being said, they need to be protected in the same way other journalists are. 

Local high school journalist Kyle Marchak says the reason he has not worked journalistically with his school a significant amount is out of “avoidance” of the censorship schools can provide. He joins many other young journalists in that regard. 

The Student Journalism Free Speech Act is currently in the Education Committee, which will be its biggest hurdle.