Lupardo, O’Mara file expanded Student Journalist Free Speech Act

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Bill gives student journalists editorial control over their publications

(ALBANY, NY) – A new bill filed by Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo and Senator Tom O’Mara would expand First Amendment rights for high school and college journalists by creating the “Student Journalist Free Speech Act.” The proposed legislation, stemming from the ‘New Voices’ movement, would give student journalists editorial control over their publications; currently in New York State, school administrators have final say in what is published.

“Student reporters are the next generation of journalists,” said Lupardo (D – Endwell). “It’s a difficult time to be a journalist as media across the country have come under attack. Having more control over what they publish will support journalistic integrity and independence which is what we need in a democratic society. I look forward to constructive debate as this legislation advances.”

“The role and the responsibility of a free press in American democracy is one of the most timely and serious examinations taking place in our society today,” said O’Mara (R, C, I – Big Flats). “I’m hopeful that the introduction of this legislation will help constructively and instructively contribute to the discussion and, especially for aspiring journalists and their instructors and mentors, help heighten their appreciation and understanding of the First Amendment, the working press, and the protection and preservation of this ideal moving forward into the 21st century. I have appreciated the enthusiasm and input we’ve received from administrators, instructors, and students at the Corning Painted-Post High School.”

The Student Journalist Free Speech Act (A9801/S7721) is the result of a grassroots movement known as ‘New Voices’ which was initiated by student journalists and their academic supervisors. The New York legislation was first proposed by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (A8333/SS7355) whose bill provided free speech protections to public high school students. The expanded legislation affords protections to journalists at the high school and collegiate level, both public and private.

The Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision gave school administrators the ability to review, and ultimately censor, student publications. The Lupardo/O’Mara bill would still protect schools by exempting speech that is 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.” Currently eight states have enacted legislation to protect journalists at public and private high schools and colleges; six more have protections in place for just high school reporters. Read more about New Voices at