“New Voices” bill dies in House

Representative+Matt+Manweller+%5BR-Wash.%5D+said+bills+about+free+speech+will+have+a+hard+time+passing+through+the+State+House.
Representative Matt Manweller [R-Wash.] said bills about free speech will have a hard time passing through the State House.

Representative Matt Manweller [R-Wash.] said bills about free speech will have a hard time passing through the State House.

Courtesy of the Republican National Committee

Courtesy of the Republican National Committee

Representative Matt Manweller [R-Wash.] said bills about free speech will have a hard time passing through the State House.

Racquel Rollins, Senior News Reporter

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Students have been fighting for their First amendment rights for decades. In the fall of 1964, students at UC Berkeley protested because the university declared that there was to be no more political speech on campus.

 
Here we are in the spring of 2017, with students still fighting for First Amendment rights — this time for high school and university newspapers.
Senate Bill 5064, aka the “New Voices” bill, would have given both high school and college journalists full freedom of the press and prohibited “prior review” of student publications  by administrators at both the high school and college levels.

Student journalists would have been able to express this right regardless of whether or not the publication was school sponsored or used school facilities.

The bill was passed by the Senate, but died in House Education Committee.
Under the bill, neither the school nor the journalism advisor could have been blamed for what was published by the students; however, as with professional journalists, the student journalists would be held responsible if they committed libel, invaded privacy or violated school policies.

According to Kathy Schrier, executive director for the Washington Journalism Education Association, which pushed hard for the bill, they “were not expecting any problems in the House Committee.”

But with 10 minutes left, the question of student liability was brought up. Parents of students under 18 can only be sued up to $5,000. While this has never been a historical concern,  or posed an issue in other states with similar bills, it was enough to change the minds of many representatives, Schrier said.

Schrier said they hope to re-introduce the bill again in the Senate in the fall. Schrier, among many others, hope that the there will be a House Representative to champion the bill the next go around to explain away any issues that will arise.

In the Senate, the bill had many sponsors, including Sen. Joe Fain [R-Wash.] from Auburn.

Ten states nationwide have passed similar legislation, with a handful of state legislatures still considering “New Voices” bills.
“Students should have freedom of the press. Freedom of speech in general is essential and college students should be allowed to practice sharing hard information with every aspect that a graduated reporter would be allowed,” said Jaelyn Colley, a junior elementary education major.

Freedom of speech has taken two forms in the House of Representatives. There are those that support  free speech, whereas others are focused on restricting speech with the intent of limiting hate speech.

The “New Voices” bill was not the only bill pertaining to  free speech that died in the House.

Mathew Manweller, a Republican a representative of Washington’s 13th legislative district while also teaching at CWU, saw his House Bill 1362, which contained two different parts, also die.

The first part of the bill looked to get rid of safe spaces at universities on the grounds that public universities should be a public forum. A safe space is a designated area in which students are able to express themselves without fear of discrimination or harassment.

The second part was to assure  students facing expulsion know what they are being charged with, as well as making sure they receive a fair trial.
The House “has been generally hostile to free speech bills,” Manweller said. They are more focused on safe spaces, making sure to block anything that might bring about added hate speech. As a result, , they “want colleges to restrict speech,” so as to make sure the wrong type of speech isn’t getting protected, Manweller said.
Colleges and universities started the fight for full first amendment rights for students and  they are at the forefront of the battle against restrictions on free speech once again.
“Ironically now colleges have the least amount of free speech,” Manweller said. “How did we go full circle?”

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“New Voices” bill dies in House