New Voices U.S.

Washington

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New Voices of Washington is a movement to guarantee student journalists in the state the freedom to report without fear of consequence. Right now, high school students have added protection against from administrative censorship — leaving college journalists and their advisers vulnerable to censorship for simply reporting the truth. New Voices of Washington aims to extend and bolster that protection to all student journalists.

“I’m so grateful to Senator Joe Fain for his visit to my journalism classroom last October and for being one of the sponsors of this legislation. It’s not stretching the point that my nine newspaper students (one homeless) convinced Joe that protecting student voices was important. We won’t win huge awards, we won’t stand on the Gold Crown or Pacemaker stands, but we will keep publishing our paper and its open forum, even if we can only get out one issue.”

— Thomas Custodio-Kaup, adviser for Auburn High School

The 2017 legislative session proved to be another oh-so-close disappointment for supporters of student journalists’ rights. A bill protecting both college and high-school journalists as well as their advisers appeared — after multiple failed attempts over the past three decades — on track to pass, only to be withheld from a House floor vote. The legislature ended its 2017 session on April 23 without taking final action on Senate Bill 5064.

Sen. Joe Fain’s bill attracted a formidable array of bipartisan sponsors, and it easily passed the Senate on March 2. But the House Education Committee refused to advance the bill to the House floor, despite a favorable reception at the committee’s public hearing.

Proponents were especially optimistic in 2017 because of the endorsement of the Seattle Times, the state’s largest newspaper.

The 2017 outcome was the second year in a row that New Voices legislation perished in committee. During the 2016 session, the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee largely showed support for increased student free press rights, but the bill was held in the Senate Rules Committee and did not receive a vote.

To get involved or to learn more about the movement, email newvoiceswa [at] gmail.com.

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