Enacts the student journalist free speech act to protect student speech at educational institutions unless such speech is libelous, an invasion of privacy, or incites students to commit an unlawful act, violate school policies, or to materially and substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A4402
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the education law, in relation to enacting the student
journalist free speech act
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL:
The purpose of this legislation is to extend and protect freedom of
speech and the press in school-sponsored newspapers by allowing for more
autonomy of student journalists over the content of their publications.
This bill will expand freedom of speech and the press by giving final
editorial control to student journalists at public and charter high
schools, while at the same time continuing long standing ethical stand-
ards which will encourage responsible journalism. This bill contains
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1: The education law is amended by adding a new article 18 which
would be referred to as the "student journalist free speech act". Arti-
cle 18 contains definitions, exemptions, and liability.
Section 2: Establishes the effective date.
In many states including New York, school administrators have the
authority to prohibit content from being published in school newspapers
over the objection of student journalists. This legislation would guar-
antee freedom of expression and freedom of the press to the student
journalists by giving them final editorial control, rather than school
administrators. This will allow for student independence and individual
initiative; student ownership of their publications which would foster a
greater sense of civic engagement and increase the protections of
student journalistic expression.
The student journalist free speech movement has been building in momen-
tum in recent years, with 14 states passing free speech protections for
student journalists. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier that federal law gives schools broad powers to
censor student journalists if they have pedagogical concerns. However,
concerns schools could use were not specifically defined, allowing
schools to censor students for legitimate journalistic inquiries and
publications. In March of 2019, CNN published a piece by one such
student journalist whose Texas school censored her journalism. The
school principal deemed her coverage as not "positive or uplifting,"
such as an article about how an anti-LGBT backlash to school programming
led to the removal of a book from the school reading curriculum. Subse-
quent news stories have been written since then similarly highlighting
the need for state-level student journalist free speech protections,
particularly in the wake of how recent national events, have affected
students, their schools, and their communities.
Freedom of expression and press are fundamental principles in our demo-
cratic society and those principals should be expanded to student jour-
nalists at public and charter high schools as well.
PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY:
Formerly A-3079 of 2020, died in the Education Committee.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
This legislation will have no fiscal implications for State or local
This act shall take effect immediately.