In case you hadn't heard, today the Washington state Senate Judiciary Committee killed the high school portion of Bill 1307. All language pertaining to high schools was removed, and it now moves forward as a college only bill.
Of course, this is a huge blow to all of us who worked so hard to promote this legislation that was to have been a shining light for other states to follow. In fact, even with our defeat today, Oregon and Michigan have similar bills that are now going through the legislative process.
We have learned that school administrators in our state are interested in suppressing student voices by controlling what can and can't be expressed in school media. This, I find to be not just sad, but frightening. WJEA will continue to fight for student voices and for student-run media in every public high school.
We must remember that rights were not lost because of what happened today; they will continue to be what they were before the legislation was introduced. The state constitution still says students have free speech. Administrators still have some restrictions on what they can censor. Unfortunately, because of what didn't happen today, the language of the law is still vague and it is likely that students may have to fight even harder to maintain their rights within their school walls.
Rep. Dave Upthegrove and Brian Schraum are heroes in my book. They started a wave that is spreading to other states and a dialogue that will go on long after this legislative session ends. And the amazing Fern Valentine has championed this cause for many years and I know won't give up now. Vince DeMiero, too, has used his gift with words to articulate this cause with intense passion. Jeff Nusser created a fabulous blogspot and, despite sleepless nights with a new baby, found time to post all the latest news on HB1307.
The students who travelled to Olympia and who spoke with such conviction were an inspiration and are the reason we needed this bill to pass. And last but not least, the folks at J-Ideas, especially Angela Thomas, who flew to the northwest twice to be with us in Olympia at the most critical times -- THANK YOU for believing so strongly in this bill and for devoting so much time and website space to this cause.
I would also like to thank Rachel Smith, Rep. Upthegrove's fabulous assistant, who not only kept us all posted on the latest news but became a good friend to our cause along the way.And how could I possibly not mention Mike Hiestand! He's right up there on the hero pedestal with Dave and Brian. His knowledge of the law and his ability to articulate it so well gave us confidence and strength all along the way. THANK YOU so much, Mike. We're so glad you are now a Washingtonian!
Friday, March 30, 2007
As you may know by now, the Senate Judiciary Committee amended the student free press bill (HB 1307) to remove high school students from the bill. The provisions of the bill now only apply to public colleges and universities. The bill then passed out of the committee on a party-line vote, with all of the Democrats supporting the bill and all of the Republicans opposing the bill.
In order to secure the votes on the committee, I had to agree to not try to add high school students back into the bill later in the process.
Even though the bill now only applies to college student media, it still faces a rocky road in the Senate. It still needs to make it out of the Senate Rules Committee, and then we will need to secure support from a majority of the Senators, and then the Majority Leader needs to agree to place it on the floor calendar for a vote, and then the Governor will need to not veto it. Your continued support and communication with Senators would be appreciated.
For those of you most interested in the high school portion of the bill, I encourage you to continue to stand up for your college counterparts. Not every college in Washington has a policy in place to fully ensure that their student paper is, indeed, treated as a public forum. Conflicting federal district court cases have created more uncertainty for college journalists. I also believe that passage of the college portion will build support and momentum for addressing high school student media in the future.
Like many of you, I became emotionally attached to this issue and thisbill. I know how disappointed and frustrated you are because I am too. The legislative process takes patience and persistence. So while it's OK to be sad about this, I ask you to also have patience and persistence. We all need to continue to champion the cause of student press freedom. You can count on my continued support.
I want to pass along my appreciation and thanks to Brian Schraum, who brought the idea for the bill forward and served as an eloquent spokesperson for the bill in the media around the country and on several public forums. He inspired me to introduce the bill and also inspired my passion for the issue. I also want to thank Mike Hiestand from the Student Press Law Center, who not only provided great legal analysis, but also proved to be a gifted communicator who was able to take complex issues and boil them down into arguments and language that even legislators could understand.
Finally, I was blown away by the tremendous support shown by student journalists and their allies from every corner of the State of Washington. The public hearing on the bill in the House Judiciary Committee was one of the finest moments of the 2007 legislative session. I can't express my appreciation enough to everyone who took the time to travel to Olympia for the hearings or who contacted their legislator.
Please know that YOU educated and inspired legislators to become champions of the issue. You inspired legislators like Rep. Pat Lantz (D-Gig Harbor), Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle), Sen. Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island), Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia), and Rep. Lynn Kessler (D-Hoquiam). These legislators deserve your thanks and appreciation for their active support and assistance with the bill.
Lets get the college portion passed into law and then recommit ourselves to continuing to "finish the job" in a future legislative session.
Chair, Select Committee on Puget Sound
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
This afternoon the Senate Judiciary Committee took executive action on House Bill 1307, designed to protect high school and college student journalists from censorship. After a long, hard battle in the House of Representatives, this important bill stonewalled in the Senate. It became apparent this morning that the legislation would not pass out of the Judiciary Committee as written. In a final effort to save the bill, an amendment was drafted and moved by Senator Rodney Tom which strikes all sections concerning public high schools.
The amended bill, applying only to public colleges, was passed out of the committee by a strong majority. In addition, an agreement was made that the high school portion of the bill would not be added back in at a later time.
I wanted to take this opportunity to express my extreme disappointment with today’s vote. No one – no one – fought harder for this than the high school students and advisers in our state. Your courage and your determination are admirable. Know that your hard work was not for nothing; even today, the great states of
Oregonand continue their fight for a free high school press. I hope you will agree that they deserve our optimistic support. Michigan
The blame for this outcome, in my mind, is three-fold. First, the school administrators in our state launched a pointed, intense, and highly effective lobbying campaign against this legislation. They used scare tactics, they used relationships with legislators, and I fully believe they used phony, misleading information in their war against HB 1307.
No one deserves more credit for killing this bill than the Association of Washington School Principals and the Washington Association of School Administrators.
Secondly, elements of the professional press share a part of the blame. Several newspapers, most notably the
Times, editorialized against HB 1307. While I expected the paid administrator lobbyists to work actively against us, I really did expect better from the Times. I never thought I’d see the day when government censors and professional journalists would join hands against a free press – but the Seattle Times has exceeded my expectations. Seattle
Perhaps the greatest, scariest lesson I have learned from this process is not about the student press. It’s about the professional press, and the sad state of affairs this country is in when not even journalists will stand up for the First Amendment. Throughout this fight, I have never felt prouder of being a young person. But I have also, without question, never felt more ashamed to be a journalist. The failure of some in the press to realize how high school student newspapers actually function, to appreciate the role they play, disturbs me greatly. And it gives me great pause as someone weighing a future career in this industry.
It would be unfair, however, not to credit those many professional journalists who supported us all the way. The
SeattleP-I, The News Today, and the Spokesman-Review deserve a very special and heartfelt thanks. Their willingness to go to bat for students, and their refusal to accept the quick and easy “principal-as-publisher” logic gives me hope. Tribune, USA
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I take a great deal of personal responsibility for today’s outcome. I accept no credit for the creation and progress of HB 1307 – that goes to the great many supporters, students, educators, and lawmakers who believed so strongly in what this bill was all about. However, I felt very passionately when this idea started brewing that high school students should be included in the bill. I heard criticism from both high schools and colleges that including younger students in the bill would be disastrous. But I believed then, as I do now, that free speech and a free press have no age limit or maturity clause.
Some told me that high schools would simply be cut out in favor of passing the college portion. Today, you were proven right. Maybe I was wrong from the beginning. But it seems clear to me that a high school-only bill would have died long before it reached this point. Nevertheless, the responsibility for getting your hopes up, for encouraging optimism, and for the great disappointment you must now feel – that rests with me and me alone.
To my friends at the college level – I look forward to joining you at the bill signing. We will set an important precedent for states across the country that censoring college students is not effective and it is not right. But it will be a bittersweet day.
For those many of you at the high school level who I’m sure are disheartened – I echo the words of Senator Adam Kline in hoping that at some future day, in some future legislature, we will complete the mission that was intended for this bill.
Take comfort in knowing that other states are now energized and working to further this cause. People across the nation are continuing to have important conversations about the student press and expression rights in our schools, often in the context of HB 1307. Sometimes it’s the little victories that matter most.
Finally, a quick thank you to the people I have met and the friends I have made throughout this process – you are among the finest people I have ever known.
Rep. Dave Upthegrove deserves our eternal gratitude. I met him by chance, but I know now that we could never have found a better person to champion free expression in
state. For the many hours and the enormous political capital he had to spend on this bill, we owe him a lot. Rachel Smith, Dave’s assistant, was absolutely amazing from the very beginning – I’m sure we all wore down her patience with our constant barrage of requests for updates. She coordinated everything, and without her, I’d still be sitting in an ice cream shop waiting to talk with Dave. Washington
Kathy Schrier, Fern Valentine, Vince DeMiero, Jeff Nusser, Logan Aimone and EVERYONE at WJEA – you made this possible. You carried the torch higher and brighter than anyone could have hoped. You invested your time and you invested a big part of yourselves in this legislation. I know you will continue this fight long after 1307 is off the radar screen. Thank you a million times over.
Mike Hiestand at SPLC is probably the most brilliant First Amendment advocate I’ve ever met. We are so fortunate to have him here in
. I have no doubt that without his expertise and passion on this issue, we would have never gathered the legislative support that we did. Thank you for answering our endless questions and for driving endless hours to meet, talk and testify. Mark Goodman, I know, was with us strongly from “the other Washington .” Your organization is keeping the student press alive, and I wish you continued success. Washington
Angela Thomas, Warren Watson, and everyone with J-IDEAS at Ball State – I never could have imagined so much support coming from halfway across the country. You are the future of this public policy battle. You did so much, whether it was flying me cross-country to have the privilege of discussing this with First Amendment leaders, or Angela flying out here – not once but twice! – for our committee hearings. I am speechless. Thank you!
I’d be forgetting a huge component of this if I didn’t thank Victor Wallace and John Knowlton for being amazing journalism advisers. You taught me what it means to be a journalist. You changed my life for the better, and those experiences kept me going and believing.
Most importantly, my gratitude goes to the countless students who were behind this from the very beginning. I was consistently blown away by your show of support at the committee hearings – this was always about you, and it was always your fight. We may have lost this brief battle, but we will win the war on censorship. I’m proud to call you my peers, my colleagues and my friends. Please, please keep in touch.
I’ve left out countless other people – so let me send out a blanket THANK YOU to everyone who sent letters, called, e-mailed, drove, or even just kept up on this issue. This was a grassroots effort from the start.
As for me, I’m disappointed but I’m not regretful. I’m not giving up either. Wherever I should end up, this is an issue that will remain important to me always. I hope I can continue to work with the great free speech advocates both in our state and across the country, in ensuring that the rights we cherish do not stop at the schoolhouse gate.
I know in my gut that one day we will return to those same steps in
, and the outcome will be different. But until that day, never forget what we started here. Olympia
Thank you all.
The theme of most of them? This is a tough day -- a sad day -- but we need to keep fighting. There will continue to be things that we all can do in Washington to fight unjust censorship of student media.
In the meantime, you are encouraged to continue to support the college only version of the bill. Those journalists need this protection, as well, and would do well to get our support on this issue.
While it was difficult to tell who was speaking at various times -- and my streaming was suspect, at best -- the arguments used by those opposing high school publications' inclusion were much the same as they have been throughout the process.
We'll have more information for you as it becomes available on what this means for the future of legislation related to a free high school press, where supporters of the bill can go from here, etc.
The committee will be revisiting HB 1307 shortly, it seems.
You can listen live to the session at TVW. The committee convenes today at noon, or whenever floor action ends this morning, whichever is sooner.
In the meantime, the (Spokane) Spokesman-Review has published a second editorial in support of the bill, which you can find here.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
It all started with an editorial at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School in Woodburn, Ind., that called for tolerance towards gays and lesbians. The principal said the material was not suitable for some members of the school (which serves grades 7-12), and after publication of the paper instituted a policy of absolute prior review, where he would review everything before it went to press.
Additionally, he sent a letter of reprimand to the adviser, who he says was supposed to bring any articles to him that might potentially be controversial before the paper goes to press. She since has been put on paid leave by the school board, which strangely also refuses to hear any public commentary on any aspect of the issue.
Some experts have weighed in, saying the principal was well within his Hazelwood rights to do what he did. It's worth noting that under House Bill 1307, none of this could happen to either the students or the adviser.
Here are some of the opinion pieces that have come out in the wake of this whole mess. In the interest of balance, I would include a piece defending the principal -- but I can't find any.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Before adjourning, committee chair Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle) said he plans to request more time to act on the bills in his committee. As of now, if the bill does not get voted on by Friday, it dies.
We'll keep you posted.
UPDATE, 7 P.M.: The committee will convene at noon or when the floor debate ends, whichever comes first, on Friday. Executive session will be first; if the bill is to be voted on, it will be done in that session by 1:30 p.m., when the public hearing on six more bills is scheduled to begin.
The deadline for a vote on the bill is Friday. You can listen live to the committee meeting at TVW.
Opposition within the committee seemed to be more vocal and hostile than in the House. However, the opportunity remains to try and sway the opinion of some senators who might be on the fence about voting for the bill and sending it on the Rules Committee.
If you live in Jefferson, Clallam, Grays Harbor and Spokane counties, as well as the Bellevue area, please consider contacting your senator who sits on the Judiciary Committee -- they hold the power to either move this bill on ... or kill it. You can find them through this search engine. You also can contact them through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
The testimony before the committee again was outstanding, as an estimated 100 supporters of the bill descended on the capitol city of Olympia. A standing-room only crowd packed the committee's chambers, and testimony was heard from both supporters and opponents of the bill. You can download audio of the testimony here.
Those speaking on behalf of the bill included legal expert Mike Hiestand, WJEA President Kathy Schrier, WJEA Freedom of Expression Chair Fern Valentine, JEA District Director and Charles Wright Academy pubilcations Adviser Steve Matson, myself, and numerous students.
It's also not too late to contact your senator if don't live in one of those counties. As I found out yesterday with my senator, sometimes just a little personal contact can go a long way!
Monday, March 26, 2007
For full details, visit this site at wjea.net. There you'll find details on the hearing itself, tips for testifying, driving and parking directions, etc.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
The Student Press Law Center, one of the most ardent supporters of student press rights, recently helped to celebrate Sunshine Week. Sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, "Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information."
Always the best legal resources around for student journalists, the SPLC has outdone itself with its revised Access to High School Records feature. It's a ready-made guide on how you can get your hands on -- and use -- some of the most common high school records that fall under freedom of information laws.
One example: How many students eat in your school's cafeteria everyday? Why not see how the school's kitchen stood up in its last health inspection? The records are right there for you to examine.
Don't know how to get a hold of those records? It's usually pretty simple, according to the SPLC:
An informal request for the relevant records should be enough to get the information you want. Just asking the appropriate school or government official politely should be all that it takes. However, if your informal request is not successful, you may be forced to invoke the power of your state’s open records law by making a formal request in writing.If you have to make that formal request, the SPLC can help you with its FOI letter generator, which will cite the appropriate Washington law. Be careful how you use it, though; while it makes it clear that you have a right to the documents in question, it also has a pretty clear adversarial tone to it.
Take the time to check out the site. It's full of great ideas for enterprising reporters looking to do some good investigative journalism.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
It was at the House Judiciary Committee hearing that supporters of the bill were able to express just how important this bill is to students, and it is hoped that another good showing could generate similar momentum for the bill in the Senate.
What made the testimony so powerful last time was the standing-room-only turnout at the hearing by a wide cross-section of supporters, each of whom had compelling stories to tell: students, teachers, media attorneys, professional media, etc. It is believed the going could be a bit bumpier in the Senate than it was in the House, so it's doubly important that supporters show just as strong of support for the bill at this hearing as they did back in January.
Like the House, testimony will be limited to two minutes each and there will be other bills on the agenda. Not everyone will get a chance to speak, but supporters can still put their names on the sign up sheet in a demonstration of support.
Additionally, Rep. Dave Upthegrove is looking for examples of inappropriate or overzealous censorship in the state of Washington. If you have any you'd like to pass along, you can send it to his legislative assistant via e-mail.
If you can't attend the hearing, you still can contact your senator, both via e-mail and through the Legislative Hotline (1-800-562-6000). You can find your senator through this link. Even if you've already contacted him or her, it's a good time to send another message. If you're coming to Olympia for the hearing, you might also call your Senator's office to see if you can schedule a short (10-15 minute) appointment to talk about the bill.
We'll post information on driving directions, testifying tips, etc. as we get closer to Tuesday.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I am currently redesigning The Viking Vanguard, and would like some feedback. Please e-mail me if you want to see the PDFs: email@example.com.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
This morning, as expected, ESHB 1307 had its first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please urge Senator Adam Kline (Chairman) to schedule a hearing on this important bill. Kline is a former ACLU attorney and apparently has a good track record on press issues. We will need every Democratic vote on that committee, and the hardest sell will likely be Sen. James Hargrove, who is a very conservative Democrat.
Sen. Hargrove's district includes Ocean Shores, Neah Bay, Port Angeles, Sequim, and Port Townsend. If you know anyone in his district, particularly student journalists or advisers, please have them e-mail/call/meet with the Senator ASAP.
Here is the full list of committee members:
Adam Kline (D), Chair – 37th, Renton, Madrona
Rodney Tom (D), Vice Chair – 48th, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland
Bob McCaslin (R), Ranking Minority Member – 4th, East Spokane, Liberty Lake
Mike Carrell (R) – 28th, Lakewood, DuPont, Fort Lewis
James Hargrove (D) – 24th, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Ocean Shores
Ed Murray (D) – 43rd, North Seattle, Fremont
Pam Roach (R) – 31st, Auburn, Enumclaw, Sumner
Brian Weinstein (D) – 41st, Newcastle, Eastgate
Thanks to everyone -- let's hit the ground running! March 30 is the deadline for the committee to vote on this bill.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
That was the effect when the Washington State House of Representatives voted last night to pass House Bill 1307, the Student Free Press Bill, by a 58-37 count.
The bill still must be passed by the state Senate and signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire before it will take effect.
Wenatchee High School adviser Logan Aimone, who stayed up late into the night to listen to debate on the House floor before the vote, had this to report on his blog:
The opposition raised the threat of litigation and of students being minors and even that legislators themselves don't have free speech rights in their state-sponsored media (although they have absolute privilege for comments on the House floor). The opposition also predicted doom and gloom -- schools across the state would shut down student media before taking the risk to have students actually have the final content decision.
All three of the amendments proposed by the 5th Legislative District's representatives Rodne and Anderson failed to be adopted.
What next? The process starts all over again. You can contact your legislative district's senator and urge them to support the bill. It will need to go through another pair of committees before potentially coming up for another vote. Also, a number of student publications have written editorials supporting the bill, another excellent form of showing support for the bill -- especially when clipped and sent to your senator.
Find your legislator here. You can also urge support of this bill through the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
Monday, March 12, 2007
The most egregious incident happened last week at Vashon High School, where Principal Susan Hanson barred the staff of The Riptide from publishing an article. While the subject of the article has not been made public, it ostensibly was about a school staff member, as Hanson used the following rationale for her decision in a letter sent to The Riptide staff:
“A student newspaper is not an appropriate vehicle for airing concerns, complaints or criticisms about District staff.”
Both a reporter at The (Tacoma) News Tribune and the Student Press Law Center vetted the story, even as the district continues to use the Hazelwood Supreme Court decision to justify its stance.
Additionally, the staff of the Lake Stevens High School newspaper The Valhalla was subjected to censorship last month when Principal Ken Collins told the staff it could not run a story about a teacher’s controversial assignment, even though it had already been covered by the local media.
Although adviser Aaron Coe said a compromise was reached, he also told the Student Press Law Center, "You kind of wonder what would happen if something bigger happens down the road."
The principals in both situations seemed to be seeking to avoid controversy, but the irony is that they are creating it with their misguided application of the Hazelwood decision.
To the contrary of both principals’ stances, this is exactly why House Bill 1307 is so badly needed: District staff are agents of the government, and the student media is precisely the place for this kind of responsible dialogue. Any attempt to suppress this kind of dialogue – even if it’s simply reaching a “compromise” on an article – amounts to governmental censorship.
If you wish to contact any of the parties involved, here are their e-mail addresses:
The three amendments have been proposed by the Republican representatives in the 5th Legislative District, which covers Issaquah, North Bend and Snoqualmie. The most recent are a pair proposed by Rep. Glenn Anderson, one of which would force the state to reimburse districts for legal fees incurred as a result of defending itself after the passage of the legislation. The other would stipulate that students receive no more free speech rights than those extended to legislators in legislative-sponsored media.
Both seem designed to stall against a vote, and neither appear likely at this point to be adopted into the bill.
These amendments come on the heels of Rep. Jay Rodne (Anderson’s counterpart in the 5th District) twice attempting to introduce an amendment that would specifically strike high school students from the bill. The Judiciary Committee rejected his first overture; the second is still up for debate before vote.
As seen here, high school students need this protection the most.
We’ll keep you posted here as information on the vote becomes available.
Friday, March 09, 2007
It looks very much like HB 1307 will be up for a House floor vote sometime after 10 a.m. today... the session will last into the evening.
We'll keep you posted as more information becomes available.
Monday, March 05, 2007
"I am in favor of HB 1307. I believe other schools should be able to enjoy the same freedom that The Howler and other school papers in the Evergreen School District have. One of the reasons I have enjoyed writing for the paper is because I am able to write about whatever I please, including topics that may be seen as controversial."
The comments from readers at the bottom, however, have not been quite as favorable. Feel free to add your voice to the mix!
Thursday, March 01, 2007
This is the second time Rodne, who is the ranking minority member on the House Judiciary Committee, has tried to introduce the amendment. The first time was before the bill left the Judiciary Committee. It was rejected at that time.
To contact Rep. Rodne and urge him to withdraw his amendment, you can either e-mail him through this form -- recommended if you live in the 5th Legislative District, his district -- or you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 to leave a message for Rep. Rodne.
You can read the full text of the amendment here.