Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Student Journalists Would Be Shielded from Censorship under This Missouri Proposal

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Student Journalists Would Be Shielded from Censorship under This Missouri Proposal

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * In 1991, a young Eric Greitens wrote an essay to the Post-Dispatch. The senior at Parkway North High School was participating in a writing contest with the prompt "What the First Amendment Means to Me."

The future Missouri governor said that while leaders since the country's founding had "nourished" the First Amendment, recent events had "begun to erode the liberties which are the basis for freedom of thought."

As one example, Greitens pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 1988 Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier case, which allowed school administrators to censor student publications.

"I am specifically concerned about the erosion of student rights protected under the First Amendment," Greitens wrote. "We need courage and wisdom to stand against the mounting silence and reignite the freedom of expression."

A quarter century later, Greitens, a Republican, may get the chance to help reverse the direction he said the country was heading. The Missouri House on Wednesday gave first-round approval to legislation that would largely shield student journalists from censorship by their schools.

The idea started to gain traction in the 2016 legislative session.

Lawmakers were fuming at the time about a November 2015 incident at the University of Missouri-Columbia, when communications professor Melissa Click, during protests on a public quad, called for "muscle" to remove student journalists.

The Cronkite New Voices Act, this year sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City, states that "material in school-sponsored media shall not be suppressed solely because it involves political or controversial subject matter." The law would apply to public high schools and public universities and colleges.

For high schools, the measure allows teachers and administrators to use prior restraint when an administrator or an adviser "reasonably determines" the material is slanderous or libelous, invades privacy, violates the law, threatens violence, or is likely to disrupt order in the school, among other things.

College students would not receive protection for printing such materials.

The proposal also states that school staff cannot be disciplined for refusing to halt publication of lawful stories. …

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