RICHMOND, Va. – Delegate Chris Hurst (D-12) introduced legislation today to guarantee protection for student journalists and student-published-media at their schools.
House Bill 2382 safeguards the school-sponsored work of student journalists from institutional censorship and restrictions unless the media is defamatory, violates federal law or creates a clear and present danger.
“The integrity of reporters and journalism has never been more important, including the work done by students,” said Delegate Hurst. “Thorough and vetted articles and news stories in student media shouldn’t be subject to unnecessary censorship by administrators.”
The work of student journalists is currently at the discretion of the school or institution where that work is published and does not have the same protections afforded to professional journalists. HB 2382 protects Virginia’s young journalists, ensuring students and their media advisors are free to create and publish media without the fear of retaliation.
“This is not about the potential of censorship; we know this is already happening in Virginia and will continue to happen unless we take action,” he added.
Similar legislation has been passed in 14 states and is being championed by New Voices, a non-partisan advocacy organization.
“We welcome the introduction of legislation to protect the First Amendment rights of student journalists and their advisors in Virginia. It is vitally important to ensure that young people can freely and fearlessly report important stories, and engage fully in the civic life of their community,” said Hadar Harris, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a non-partisan legal assistance organization for student journalists, which supports the New Voices movement.
“Protecting the independence of reporters is paramount to a free society, whether they’re in a school or a newsroom. I applaud Del. Hurst for encouraging reporters, regardless of age, to pursue the truth, vet facts and report the news as dispassionate third-party observers who answer to their media advisers, editors, and the public,” said Delegate Danica Roem (D-13), who is the Chief Co-Patron on the bill.
Delegate Hurst is a former evening news anchor and journalist for WDBJ7 in Roanoke.
See the full text of HB 2382 here.