Friday, February 01, 2008

Student Free Press Bill dead for 2008

Sen. Adam Kline, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has declined to give Senate Bill 6449 a hearing, effectively rendering the legislation dead for the second consecutive year.

What happened? It's unlikely the bill was going to gain the necessary votes to make it out of committee in its present form -- with high schools included -- and in this short, 60-day session, bills that aren't on the fast track often get cast to the wayside.

However, as a famous man once said, this is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. We will all work hard to get legislation introduced next year, and the committees -- which hold so much power in the process -- likely will get shifted somewhat in 2009. Additionally, the opportunity still exists to educate your legislators in the meantime.

Here are the thoughts of Brian Schraum, the former Enumclaw High School and Washington State University student journalist who was the inspiration behind the initial bill and has worked tirelessly on its behalf the past two years:

Dear friends,

Writing this for the second time sure doesn’t make it any easier.

Today we learned that SB 6449, the latest incarnation of Washington’s student press freedom legislation, will not be scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I know this is disappointing. I’m disappointed too – especially that the passionate students, educators and journalists who support this bill didn’t have the opportunity to speak in Olympia again. We student press advocates are a feisty bunch. And we’re not done yet.

We’ve asked a lot of you over these last two years. We asked you to get involved. We asked you to spread the word. We asked to you to believe – to believe in the importance of this legislation and that passing it was possible.

It IS possible.

And it will happen – that much I’m convinced of. We passed this legislation in the House, and I honestly believe we came within just a few committee votes in the Senate. Next year the tune starts playing in Committee Musical Chairs, and things change. And the opportunity to educate our elected officials in this session continues.

We’ll have plenty of time to dissect this effort, to look at what went wrong and what didn’t. I’d urge you not to point the finger of blame at anyone just yet. For now, I think it’s safe to say this outcome was more political than philosophical.

So instead of growing cynical about a process that hasn’t yet been successful, I’d ask you to use that energy to thank a few folks. Thank the 18 member organizations of our state- and nation-wide coalition of folks who believe so strongly in student voices and real journalism. Thank Sen. Joe McDermott, Rep. Dave Upthegrove, Bryce McKibben of the Washington Student Lobby, Kathy Schrier of the Washington Journalism Education Association, and so many others for their invaluable contribution to this effort.

And thank the Association of Washington School Principals, which took the time (when others wouldn’t) to hear us out and realize we do more for students when we understand each other. That dialogue is the beginning of something big.

I’ll ask one thing more: don’t give up. Your efforts will matter throughout this year and into the next more than they ever have before. I’m with you. I may literally be packing up the U-HAUL and moving on down the road in life – but I’m with you on this, now and always.

Great things don’t come easy or by chance, but from the hard work of a dedicated few.

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