Nebraska state legislator proposes bill to protect student journalists

A Nebraska legislator recently proposed a bill in the state’s legislative body that would provide student journalists the right to express full freedom of speech rights in school-sponsored publications, according to ABC Omaha affiliate KETV 7.

Nebraska State Senator Al Davis, of Hyannis, proposed LB885 that, if passed, would give students full reason to exercise freedom of speech rights, similar to those of their professional counterparts in the industry.

LB885 proposes protections that are specific to protecting student media. Specifically, the bill draft allows for the potential protection that makes a student journalist “responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of school-sponsored media.”

"I just think it's something that the state ought to stand up for," Senator Davis said in an article published in the Lincoln Journal Star. Essentially, the bill will apply to all public higher education institutions, excluding student journalists who attend private universities and colleges.

One columnist in the Scottsbluff Star Herald stated the importance of campaigns and pushes for legislation like Senator Davis’ bill, saying we should “teach our students that they do have a role in our society, to be thoughtful, to be continually learning and to be advocates for their causes in respectable ways.”

The Nebraska bill is a part of a national initiative headed by the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). SPLC’s New Voices USA campaign is a multi-state push for legislation that provides student journalists with first amendment rights.

In New Jersey, a similar bill was introduced that would, virtually, protect student journalists from censorship form higher education institutions. The Student Press Law Center says “Student journalists would be allowed to report freely without sanctions or prior restraint.”

The campaign has sponsored and supported legislation in states across the country. The most notable effort was for a piece of landmark legislation that was passed in the North Dakota. Known as the John Wall New Voices Act, the legislation permits college and high school students to have a “freedom of expression.”

Reportedly, only three states in the country, including North Dakota, California, and Oregon, offer full freedom of expression for all student journalists in college and high school. Other states like Colorado, Kansas and Iowa have programs that only protect high school student journalists.

Campus Reform submitted several requests for comment to the University of Nebraska for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

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