Key Vote Alert: SB 121

Jan 24, 2023 by AFP

On behalf of our respective activists across the state, we encourage you to support SB 121, Creating Student Journalist Press Freedom Protection Act.

The Bill of Rights protects and enumerates the civil liberties of every American. Those rights make the great American experiment possible. In fact, free speech empowers citizen to hold those in power accountable. And we should question attempts by government to censor or silence citizens seeking to engage in their inalienable right to free expression. Unfortunately, public school administrators can chill student journalists’ free speech rights by stopping them from publishing material with which administrators disagree and, in some instances, even retaliating against journalism teachers and advisers.

These acts deny the next generation of journalists the ability to refine how they seek out and shine a light on issues and viewpoints, even unpopular or contentious ones.

Student journalists in public schools should learn how to responsibly exercise their free speech rights, helping increase their awareness of the rights and responsibilities of a free and independent press. New Voices legislation, SB 121, would ensure student journalists in publicly funded institutions, and their media advisors, enjoy the full protection of the First Amendment.

SB 121 ensures that student journalists and their work under direction of media teachers and advisers on school-sponsored media are protected by the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press. The bill does not protect expression that is libelous or slanderous, constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy, violates state or federal law, or that would incite students to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act or a violation of school policies that would cause a material and substantial disruption.

For these reasons, we ask you to support SB 121 to ensure that student journalists’ right to free speech is protected, enabling them to freely seek out and report on stories that are important to them and their communities.

Jason Huffman

West Virginia State Director

Americans for Prosperity

Eli Baumwell

Advocacy Director

American Civil Liberties Union- West Virginia