A bill meant to protect student journalists’ First Amendment rights died in the Indiana Senate on Friday.
Rep. Edward Clere, author of House Bill 1130, intended the bill to roll back the restrictions imposed by the 1988 Hazelwood Supreme Court decision.
The Hazelwood decision created a precedent that allows school administrators to censor public high school and college publications almost at will.
Clere grew up in Floyd County and attended Floyd Central High School, where he was a student journalist himself. The issue hits particularly close to home for him — his 15-year-old daughter is an assistant news editor at the same school newspaper where he first ventured into journalism.
“Student journalists play a vital role in a school setting in the same way that professional journalists play a vital role in a community at the state or national level,” Clere said. “They foster accountability and transparency, they carry on important conversations, they bring issues and interest to light, and beyond all that, student journalism is a hands-on civics lesson for the entire school community.”
“Hazelwood had created a fuzzy standard for where administrators could step in and censor material,” said Stephen Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association.
He noted that House Bill 1130 wouldn’t have given students the freedom to write just anything and everything.
School administrations "will still have power, but they won’t be able to step in just because they think the story puts them in an unfavorable light or touches on a sensitive topic,” he said. “The administration can still step in if they review the publication and it’s inciting someone to break the law, or if it’s obscene or libelous.”