Thursday, January 24, 2008

Senate Bill 6449 needs YOUR help!

We've been writing a lot here about the latest incarnation of the Student Free Expression Bill, Senate Bill 6449. We are confident that if it can pass its most difficult challenges in the Senate, then it will pass the House of Representatives and, pending governor approval, will be passed into law.

However, it does have some significant hurdles to get over, and that is where YOU come in.

According to Bryce McKibben, president of the Washington Student Lobby, a strong grass roots effort contacting individual senators would make a huge difference right now. Here is part of what he said in an e-mail yesterday:

We are in need of a sustained, grassroots advocacy campaign. ... What we need is for Senators Rodney Tom (in particular, pictured above), James Hargove, and Bob McCaslin to hear from teachers, parents, and student journalists -- student editors in particular -- about the bill. We need to counter the pervasive argument that there is only opposition out there. Our organization does NOT have the resources available to mobilize this important community, so we need your help there. A lot of help.

The reason those senators are so important right now is because they are considered swing votes in the Judiciary Committee. In order for the bill to have a shot at being passed, it must first make it through that committee with five of the eight committee members voting for it.

How can you help? Here are some strategies:
  • Write a hand-written letter addressed to the senators above. You can find their addresses by clicking on their names above. (This tends to be the most effective method.)
  • Send an e-mail to any of the senators above. You can do that via a form on each senator's site.
  • Call the legislative hotline at 800-562-6000.
This bill clarifies the law with regard to rights and responsibilities of student journalists, their advisers, and school administrators. If it passes, Washington would follow in the steps of seven other states that have passed similar legislation. The current bill is nearly identical to HB 1307 that was introduced first in the House last session, where it passed, only to die in the Senate. This year, the bill was introduced in the Senate first, by Sen. Joe McDermott (34th Dist).

For a full story on the bill and further background, go to

WJEA president Kathy Schrier contributed to this report.

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