Washington Students Influence Freedom of Expression Bill

Caroline Casey, Staff Writer

Although young, students are mighty, and can make a big impact in our world. Recently in the Spring of 2018, Washington became the fourteenth state to pass the Student Freedom and Expression bill. This Bill allows student journalists in public schools to be completely responsible for their media without a student advisor intervening and prohibiting/altering their work.

 This is important because many have argued that the students are not being given their right in the first amendment of freedom of speech and press. For the student journalist, they no longer have to worry about their work being censored which will ultimately lead to more creativity. Specifically, in Washington, students went to Governor Jay Inslee’s office in Olympia to watch as he signed the law. When sophomore Molly Bevan was asked about her opinion on the Bill, she said, “I support the Bill because every person has their own style and opinions and the school shouldn’t be able to modify it.”

A lot of people, specifically students are excited for this new change and look up to the students from Washington public schools that went out and fought for change. One of the students in Washington pushing for the bill, Jaxon Owens of Puyallup High School says that the students won’t abuse this power and that the bill will help them to grow and reach their full potential as writers. Students like Owens are who inspire students all around the country. Bevan also said, “It is inspiring that these students did this because it goes to show students our age can make an impact in this world.”

This is an important law especially for students because it gives them power and freedom. Before the bill was passed in Washington, the “Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier” decision allowed administrators in schools from kindergarten to twelfth grade to be able to censor school-sponsored media. Now, students are able to write what they want, not what the school wants which will lead to the work published being more relevant to their own age. Although school administrations cannot alter and censor their work, they can still prohibit student media that is libelous or slanderous, an unwarranted invasion of privacy, violates school district policy or procedure related to harassment, intimidation, bullying, or discrimination, incites students to commit an unlawful act on school premises, and creates a material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.

Freshman Anika Poythress shared her opinion on the bill as well. In regard to freedom of speech, she said, “I think freedom of speech is an important right for a student to have because they are the next generation and in order to be a part of, and contribute to the world they will soon be in charge of, it is better for them to learn earlier how to voice their opinions and respect others’ options so that their future can be up to its generation and not entirely up to the one before.”

Not only looking from the student perspective, it is important to know that the administrators are there to help and educate students. Poythress also states, “the teacher’s job is to prepare students for life, and the world. I also think students should have a say in the future of their world however I believe the previous generation (teachers) should also be able to give a guiding hand to shape the future.”