Lawmakers Consider More Protections for Student Journalists

Apr 17, 2017

Credit Jacob Fenston / KBIA

Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill to give student journalists more freedom by restricting the types of content school administrators could censor.

The bill passed out of the House in March and is awaiting debate in the Senate.

The Kansas City Star reportsĀ current law allows administrators to censor anything they consider sensitive material. It was established by a landmark Missouri case that made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1988 Hazelwood decision determined that public school students do not have full First Amendment rights in school-sponsored publications.

The new law would restrict censorship of student work to stories that are libelous, invade privacy, violate law or incite a clear and present danger.

Sandy Davidson, a lawyer and professor of communications law at the University of Missouri, says the bill creates some "breathing space" for high school and collegiate journalists to report important stories.

Republican Rep. Kevin Corlew, of Kansas City, says the additional protections show student journalists that their rights matter.

So far, at least 11 states, including Kansas, have adopted some form of additional protection for student journalists.

A similar bill made it out of the House last year but was never debated on the Senate floor.