Camilleri Legislation Protects Rights of Student Journalists

Bill solidifies First Amendment privileges for school publications
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

LANSING — State Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) introduced legislation today that safeguards the rights of student journalists to exercise free speech and freedom of the press. House Bill 4551 would make Michigan the 10th state to pass such protections for student journalists.

“The protections of the First Amendment shouldn’t stop at the school doors,” Camilleri said. “Not only do student publications teach valuable skills that young people can use later in their education or in their professional life, but they also instill a core American value of a free and open press as a vital part of a functioning democracy.”

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Massachusetts and Oregon have passed legislation to protect student journalists. Under Camilleri’s bill:

  • Student journalists would have the right to exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school-sponsored media.
  • Student journalists’ rights do not extend to material that is libelous or slanderous, an unwarranted invasion of privacy, a violation of state or federal law, or an incitement to create clear and present danger that students might commit an unlawful act or disrupt the orderly operation of the school.
  • Schools are prohibited from authorizing prior restraint of expression in school-sponsored media, except in the cases above.
  • Schools must adopt a written policy reflecting student journalists’ rights.
  • Schools are prohibited from dismissing or otherwise retaliating against a student media adviser who acts to protect the rights of student journalists or refuses to act in a way that infringes on the rights of a student journalist.

“Student journalists do important work, and it’s only fair that we ensure that the constitutional protections professional journalists enjoy are extended to these hard-working students as well,” Camilleri said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this bill move through the legislative process.”