Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2017

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Bill to protect student journalists considered by Assembly

CARSON CITY — High school and college journalists would get a little more protection under a bill being considered at the Nevada Legislature.

Senate Bill 420 seeks to protect the right of student journalists to express themselves in their school publications. Freedom of expression in schools is what allows students to wear shirts and hats as long as they do not interfere with the school’s mission to teach, said Sen. Nicole J. Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored the measure.

The bill was heard Monday in the Assembly’s education committee after it passed unanimously out of the Senate on April 25.

Student journalists cannot be punished if a story that conforms with policy — that does not constitute bullying, for example — leads other students to vandalize district property or otherwise violate conduct codes, the bill says. Some concerns were raised Monday about whether that language was too broad.

Cannizzaro said Monday that the bill could be worded to specify the protection applies to student journalists whose stories unintentionally inspire their classmates to break rules. She also said work is under way on an amendment that would remove some language to make the bill simpler for districts to implement.

At the request of the Clark County School District, the effective date of the bill could also shift from July to October 2017.

Bill supporters also clarified during the hearing that the measure applies to student publications that are tied to the curriculum rather than blogs and other publications maintained independent of school work.

Cannizzaro said the bill is not an open invitation for students to write whatever they want, and still allows schools to intercede under certain circumstances.

Educators as well as current and former student journalists spoke in favor of the bill Monday, with some telling lawmakers about instances where students were censored and discouraged from civic engagement.

Cannizzaro said other states have been working to protect student journalists as well. A similar measure is moving through the Arizona Legislature.

The Assembly Education Committee faces a May 19 deadline to act on bills.

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