Saturday, October 28, 2006

Student Press Freedom Bill

Download the Student Press Bill to learn more

Dave Upthegrove is serving his 3rd term in the Washington State House of Representatives, where he represents the 33rd legislative district—which includes Des Moines, Normandy Park, SeaTac and parts of Kent and Burien. In the legislature, he serves as Vice-Chairman of the Natural Resources, Ecology & Parks Committee. He also serves on the Capital Budget Committee and on the Transportation Committee.

Prior to serving in the legislature, Representative Upthegrove worked on the staff of the legislature for seven years. He also served as Chairman of the 33rd District Democratic Party. He is one of the youngest members of the legislature and has worked closely with student governments to make sure that young voices are represented in the process.

A recent Knight Foundation Study showed that students who do not receive civics or journalism education in school are far less likely to understand or appreciate their first amendment rights. In the 2006 session, Representative Upthegrove was the prime sponsor of House Bill 2579, which requires classroom based assessments in civics. Unlike the WASL, these will be interactive project-based assessments scored by teachers in the classroom. Civics is already part of the required curriculum in Washington’s public schools. However, prior to passage of this bill, there has been no mechanism to ensure that students are actually learning the subject.

Outside of the legislature, Upthegrove serves as a member of the Council for Public Legal Education-- a group of community leaders who work to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities as citizens—and also is a regular volunteer with the "We the People" civic education program in the schools. He recently traveled to Warsaw, Poland to participate in an international civics education conference. One of the topics highlighted by that trip was the importance of a free press in maintaining democracy.

Rep. Upthegrove feels strongly that the first amendment rights of student press should be protected. He intends to introduce legislation in the 2007 session to prohibit censorship of student newspapers at public colleges and high schools.


Brian Schraum said...

Please contact me if you are interested in helping get this legislation passed.
ADVISORS, feel free to give my information out to your students as well.

Brian Schraum

Student, Washington State University; formerly of Green River Community College; formerly formerly of Enumclaw High School.

Vincent F. DeMiero said...

First of all, a HUGE "Bravo" to Brian and Rep. Upthegrove for taking on this important issue.
Now, they need our help. It's pretty easy to contact your legislator and ask them to support this effort. I've done it with each of my state representatives and senator, and I've even sent letters to the governor and other state officials. All you have to do is go to and do a quick search for your representatives and you'll find e-mail addresses, fax numbers and snail-mail addresses. Do whatever it takes.
So, what to say? Well, Charles Wright Academy adviser Steve Matson was kind enough to share a letter that he wrote, so I edited it to fit my particular perspective and context, then sent it along. You're welcome to do the same with mine (see below). So far, I've received a couple of responses - all favorable. In fact, Rep. Al O'Brien has agreed to support the bill in response to my letter to him!
So, here's the text of one of my letters. Feel free to borrow ideas!
~ Vince
Dear Representative Al O'Brien:
I am enthusiastically and respectfully encouraging you to support the student press rights bill that Rep. Dave Upthegrove plans to introduce in the state legislature.
I am the journalism teacher at Mountlake Terrace High School in the Edmonds School District, and I am also a board member of the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission. I have been on this national JEA board for nearly 10 years and, locally, have been active with the Washington Journalism Education Association for 14 years.
From my experience locally and nationally I have seen the chilling effect that unwarranted censorship and prior review has on student journalism. I have also seen the confusing, demoralizing impact on students when responsible educators try to teach Constitutional freedoms, the First Amendment, and citizenship in social studies classes, but then misguided school policies or misinformed administrators block, deny, or impede students from exercising such rights. Understandably, students see this as a hypocritical position for schools to adopt – especially public schools.
In contrast, I have also seen the thoughtful, professional work student journalists will do when given the opportunity, and when they know they have both the right to practice journalism and the responsibility to do it to the best of their ability. In fact, we have some of the finest high school and college journalism programs in the nation right here in our state.
The proposed bill (“An act relating to freedom of student press and speech; adding a new section to chapter 28A.600; adding a new section to chapter 28B.10 RCW; and creating a new section”) is a remarkable document. It appropriately holds student journalists accountable to the laws of the state of Washington and United States – specifically press law as it relates to libel, privacy, copyright, and obscenity. Furthermore, it holds student editors – not school officials, school boards or administrators – responsible for what is printed in a student publication, thus emphasizing protections for schools while clarifying freedom and responsibility for students.
The proposed bill is consistent with similar laws in several other states, where the records show that such legislation advances the cause of education and citizenship while doing no harm to any other constituency. Frankly, this enlightened piece of legislation will establish Washington state as a true leader in protecting and furthering First Amendment rights and responsibilities.
Again, I urge you to continue your legacy of supporting our students and furthering sound education by lending your support to this bill.
If I can be of any further assistance, please call on me at your convenience.

Vincent F. DeMiero
Mountlake Terrace High School

Brian Schraum said...

UPDATE 1/15/07:
Rep. Upthegrove has officially introduced House Bill 1307, with three co-sponsors. Two of these co-sponsors are members of the judiciary committee, and include chairwoman Pat Lantz. For text of the bill and updated status, check:

Students and advisers: your help counts now more than ever.

Brian Schraum

Dave Upthegrove said...

...and one of the co-sponsors is Rep. Al O'Brien. Thanks Vince!

Brian Schraum said...

UPDATE 1/16/07:
The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee this morning!

Brian Schraum said...

UPDATE 1/16/07:

Many more sponsors have now signed on to the bill. Here's the list:

Representatives Upthegrove, Lantz, Williams, O'Brien, Sells, McCoy, Appleton, Darneille, Lovick, Dunshee, Takko, Pedersen, Simpson, Dickerson, Moeller, McIntire, Schual-Berke, Quall, Springer, Morrell

If my counting skills still serve me, that's 20 sponsors. Four of them are on the 11-member House Judiciary Committee.

Brian Schraum said...

UPDATE 1/17/07:

The bill has been scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, at 8 a.m. Jan. 26 (Friday).

Kathy Schrier said...


Specifics on Legislative Hearing, January 26, 8 a.m. in Olympia. ALSO- location and parking info (from Rep. Dave Upthegrove's assistant, Rachel Smith):

Committees meet in 2 hour time slots. On Friday, the Judiciary Committee is holding a public hearing on 2 bills, so the maximum time allotted to our bill will be 1 hour. Staff will brief the committee on the bill and then Rep. Upthegrove will testify. That leaves maybe 45 minutes for public testimony. It is inevitable that there will not be enough time for every person to testify. Testimony is usually limited to 2-3 minutes per person. The Chair will likely request that people not provide repetitive testimony. If you want to register your support without testifying, there's a spot on the sign-up sheet to indicate that. The Chair will cut people off if they talk too long or if they read from written comments. Any written comments should be submitted to committee staff (11 copies) who will distribute to committee members.

Now that I've intimidated everyone, I should also say that the Chair of the Judiciary Committee (Representative Pat Lantz) is really nice. Legislators recognize that it is difficult for regular citizens to take time off to attend hearings. They are hard on paid lobbyists, but they will be nice to you.

Given the time constraints, public hearings are not the best opportunity to educate committee members about details of the bill or the long history of court cases, etc. As long as folks are down here for the hearing, it would be a good idea to request appointments with their Representatives and Senators. Most offices have limited time for meetings, so people should team up rather than request multiple appointments. Not every legislator will have time available, but it's worth a shot. You can find your legislator online at:

How to Testify:
They usually put the sign-up sheets just inside the entrance to the hearing room (sometimes they're in the hallway). To sign up to testify, you just find the sheet with the correct bill number and enter all the requested information (name, contact info, pro or con, and indicate in the box whether you wish to testify). The chair will call your name when it's your turn. They often call up three people at a time and you take turns giving your testimony.

If members of the committee ask questions you don't have an answer to, then it's ok to say you don't know. You can offer to follow up with additional information. (they're usually pretty easy on citizens who come to testify--they're more demanding of the professional lobbyists).

Testimony is limited to about 2 minutes, so it's important to be very brief and to the point. Lots of background information is not needed. Just say why the bill is important to you.

At the beginning of your testimony, you need to state your name, organization and where you're from--for the record. Most people use the following template: "Thank you Madam Chair and members of the Committee. For the record, my name is (insert name here), from (insert city here). I am (insert profession or organizational affiliation here, if relevant), speaking in support of (insert bill number here)."

Parking is a hassle at the capitol, so be sure to give yourself a substantial time cushion.
From I-5 South
Take Exit #105-A to the State Capitol
The exit dumps you out on 14th Ave SE
The first stoplight is Jefferson Street
Turn Left onto Jefferson
Take the first Left onto Wheeler
There's a parking lot immediately on your Right. (there's other parking closer to campus, but it fills up fast)

Parking is 50 cents per hour. There are meters at the lot where you can purchase a ticket to display on your dashboard. This parking lot is serviced by the free Dash Shuttle (it's a brightly colored city bus--you can't miss it). It runs every 12 minutes.

Here's a link to information about the Dash:

Here's a link to a map of the capitol campus:
The parking lot and where you come off the freeway are on the far right (East) side of the map.

If you look on the map, you'll see the Legislative building at the far West side of the capitol campus. The John L. O'Brien Building (JLOB) is just Southwest of the Legislative Building.

Hearing rooms are on the first floor of JLOB. Judiciary Committee meets in Hearing Room A. I will be at the hearing room a little early, in case anyone has questions about how to sign in, etc.

Rachel Smith
Legislative Assistant
to Rep. Dave Upthegrove
(360) 786-7868

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