Please read more and learn how you can get involved at the PA New Voices site.
New Voices is a nonpartisan, grassroots, student-driven effort to create state-based student free press protections and to prevent retaliation against advisers who stand up for student free press rights. As of the spring of 2019, there are New Voices laws in 14 states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. New legislation has been introduced this year in 11 additional states.
New Voices protections are needed because, without them, school administrators can (and do) censor many student publications for “any reasonable pedagogical purpose” (Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 1988). Censoring students not only quells their engagement in the life of their community, but sends a clear message that their voices are not valued and respected.
Under current Pennsylvania code, school publications do have some protections, but we have found that many schools and their administrators may not follow this code. In order to ensure student First Amendment rights here in Pennsylvania, we need stronger protections for our students and their advisers. We need New Voices.
In Pennsylvania, our own New Voices campaign has been underway since August 2018. After meeting with student journalists and their adviser last winter, Sen. Andy Dinniman (D) agreed to draft legislation. Through a collaborative effort between student journalists and advisers from across the Commonwealth, the bill was revised and ultimately drafted by Sen. Dinniman. Sen. Dinniman has since garnered the support of Senators Brewster (D), Muth (D), and Browne (R), who have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, now “Senate Bill 806: The Free School Media Act.”
While Sen. Dinniman is seeking more co-sponsors to ensure that the bill is picked up by a committee, your support can help. Contact your state senator to encourage them to support or even co-sponsor SB806, encourage your local media to do stories about the movement and to editorialize in favor of the bill, connect with other organizations who may be willing to endorse the bill, or simply connect with New Voices PA on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date.
We are hopeful that, with your support, we can pass legislation that not only protects student speech, but advisers’ jobs as well.
The Pennsylvania School Press Association Board of Directors