Monday, June 18, 2007

Oregon student free expression bill off to the governor(!) for approval

In stark contrast to our struggle in Washington to get House Bill 1307 passed, the Oregon Senate has sent its student free expression bill to the governor for approval.

The bill will protect both college and high school journalists, although some Senate Judiciary Committee amendments did strip some of the protections from the bill, according to the Student Press Law Center:

HB 3279 stipulates that high school and college journalists are responsible for determining the content of school-sponsored media. The bill also affirms the right of student journalists to pursue a lawsuit under the state law against schools that violate free press rights.

But the Senate's amendments to the bill deleted a provision that designated college publications as "public forums" and removed the original bill's guarantee that student media advisers who refuse to censor student journalists cannot be fired or transferred. The House had previously amended the bill by removing "advertising" from a list of protected student expressions for high school students and excising a clause that would have allowed for the awarding of attorney's fees and costs. ...

Rep. Larry Galizio (D-Tigard), who introduced the bill in March, said while he thinks the bill was better in its original, more protective form, the law will lend much-needed support to student press. Galizio said he concurred with the Senate committee's revisions but plans to introduce new legislation in the fall that will offer more protections to student publications.

"I could have decided to not concur ... and risk losing the entire bill or I could do what I have chosen to do," he said.

There is some debate about whether the amendments will make much of a difference in the law's enforcement, but SPLC legal consultant Mike Hiestand -- a Washington resident who put in a lot of work on behalf of HB 1307 -- said no matter what, "the bottom line is that this is a good thing for Oregon student media."

Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski has indicated he will sign the bill into law. It would take effect on July 1.

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