Advocate for New Voices - National Council of Teachers of English
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Advocate for New Voices

NewVoicesStudent journalists need the First Amendment as much as their adult counterparts do, but they don’t always get the same protection.

In 1988, when the Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, students’ free speech rights were left in the hands of administrators who could exercise “editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities.”

College journalist Kelcey Caulder tells how such editorial control feels:

“I’m 21 and a college journalist now, and I still feel pressure to write about things that other people deem appropriate rather than what I think is important or even relevant to my experience. But sometimes I remember— “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”—and I wonder why these rights do not seem to apply to me. Aren’t I American, too?”

But there’s hope. States are able to make laws more lenient than the Hazelwood ruling, laws that would give student journalists the same right to write and speak enjoyed by adult journalists.

The New Voices Project is helping educators, students, and community members to work to have their states pass this legislation:

“the New Voices Act, [ ]a comprehensive educational legislation that will…
• restore the Tinker standard of student expression in public high schools. TheTinker Standard (1967) protects student speech unless it is libelous, an invasion of privacy or creates a “clear and present danger” or a “material and substantial disruption” of the school.
• protect public colleges from dangerous court interpretations that apply the Hazelwood standard to higher education, where almost all students involved are adults.
• extend the expression rights that public college students expect to students at private colleges.”

North Dakota has passed such a law and campaigns for the legislation are underway in a number of other states.

Join NCTE and our assembly AASP/JEA, won’t you, and advocate for New Voices legislation in your state.