High schools across Indiana have rallied together to help protect student journalists' freedom.
As a part of this effort, Indiana House Bill 1130 is making a push through the Indiana Statehouse to require public schools to adopt policies concerning first amendment freedoms for student journalists in grades five through 12.
“The bill will allow more student journalists the opportunity to cover more topics and issues than some schools allow now,” said Diana Hadley, director of the Indiana High School Press Association. “Although many schools do not limit content of student media, others have used the 1988 Hazelwood Decision to limit most of the coverage to public relations features at the expense of additional issues important to the school community.”
According to the Indiana General Assembly, House Bill 1130 requires school corporations and state educational institutions to adopt policies concerning student journalist protections and provides that a public school, school corporation, or state educational institution may not suppress school sponsored media unless the content is "libelous or slanderous or gratuitously profane."
Advancing the rights of student journalists to the public eye has been a journey, Hadley said. The driving force of the movement has been students seeking out their freedom and constitutional rights.
“Work on House Bill 1130 specifically began last summer when Ed Clere [R-New Albany] volunteered to sponsor New Voices legislation,” Hadley said. “His idea to involve students has made the process expansive, but increasingly rewarding as high school and college journalists have become engaged in legislation.”
Hadley is a member of the New Voices of Indiana team — an organization committed to the protection of student free speech. The organization is comprised of adult supporters and two groups of high school and college students, and the legislative team is in
charge of writing, advocating and working toward passing House Bill 1130.
According to IHSPA, eight of the high school and college New Voices team members met at the Indiana Statehouse Dec. 7 to help draft legislation for the bill and meet stakeholders who would be interested in the legislation. Since this meeting, the bill has passed through the House to earn a Senate Education Committee hearing set for March 15.
“Student journalists are excited to see the bill pass the House Education Committee 13-0 and the full House 88-4,” Hadley said. “There is still much work to pass the senate, but everyone involved is motivated.”
Hadley said IHSPA has been working for the last 26 years to build positive relationships between student media and their schools, promoting events like the First Amendment Symposium to celebrate appreciation for the First Amendment at the Indiana State House.
“If students don't have the opportunity to report and discuss issues in high school and college they may never become engaged citizens,” Hadley said. “It's easy to take freedom for granted. We have to fight for the First Amendment continually to appreciate the role it plays in a democracy.”