Va. lawmakers aim to protect student journalism

The bills aim to protect free press rights of journalists for publications controlled by public schools.

Bills intruduced to the Virginia state legistlature are set to protect student journalists.

Bills have been introduced in both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly with the purpose of protecting student journalists' freedom of speech from the censorship of university administrations. While the bill was voted down by the senate, Virginia delegates are hopeful that it will be successful in the house.

Virginia’s Senate Bill 80 (SB 80) and House Bill 36 (HB 36) declare that, except in limited circumstances, a student journalist in a public middle school, high school, or public institution of higher education “has the right to exercise freedom of speech and the press in school-sponsored media.” 

[RELATED: Nebraska Sen. proposes bill to protect student journalists]

The bills define school-sponsored media as “any material that is prepared, substantially written, published, or broadcast” that is under the direction of a student media advisor and “distributed or generally made available” to students.

On Jan. 23, SB 80 was voted down in the Senate. The bill was sponsored by Sen. David W. Marsden. 

Senator Marsden told Campus Reform that, although SB 80 had been shot down in the Senate, Delegate Hurst is “carrying the torch in the House.” 

[RELATED: Student newspaper chafes at censorship from admins]

HB 36 is sponsored by Delegate Chris Hurst and Delegate Danica Roem. 

Campus Reform reached out to Delegates Hurst and Roem’s offices for comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says that it “supports the bills as they apply to public college campuses and hopes those provisions are enacted by the Virginia legislature.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @carolinefshaver