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NJ Senate Education Committee passes New Voices bill by unanimous vote

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From Pascack Valley H.S.’s The Smoke Signal

New Voices in New Jersey

Editorial: Why the New Voices legislation must pass

Pushing back against censorship

From Cherry Hill East H.S.’s Eastside Online

The New Voices Movement: Paving the way for uncensored journalism

New Jersey high school journalists are still fighting for rights their counterparts in other states received years ago.

The New Voices bill affirms rights granted to students in 1969 when the US Supreme Court ruled in the Tinker v. DesMoines case that “students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate.” As a practical matter, it gives students rights to report, write and edit a student newspaper, whether or not it is sponsored by the school district.

Some of the rights under Tinker were eroded by later court decisions, but the majority of states want to give them back. So far 14 states have a New Voices bill. New Jersey and Hawaii are vying for the 15th slot.

New Jersey’s bill is supported by the Garden State Scholastic Press Association, The New Jersey Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the NJ Education Association. It passed the State Senate unanimously twice, at the end of last session and the beginning of the current session, the current bill, S108 is identical to the Assembly version.

The GSSPA, under the direction of John Tagliareni, retired teacher and newspaper advisor from Bergenfield High School, and Tom McHale, teacher from Hunterdon Central High School has been in the lead in the fight for New Voices. Tagliareni started working toward a remedy for Hazelton in 1988.

There are 20 sponsors in the Assembly, 11 Democrats and 9 Republicans. The cosponsors include three of the six members of the education committee.

It is opposed by the principals and superintendents organization and Education Committee Chair Pamela Lampitt does not want to release it from the committee.

College students are also covered by the bill, but it has been their younger peers who have worked hard for passage for about five years.

The bill doesn’t give students carte blanche or take away the rights of the school administration. Students may still be prevented from using profanity or harassing or threatening language. Administrators may still be allowed prior review of the student publications but not prior restraint; they can’t arbitrarily remove an article.

Journalism advisors are protected from being fired or harassed for something a student editor does.

According to Tagliareni, the bottleneck in the education committee may be related to opposition from the principals and administrators association. They may be comfortable with the Hazelwood decision in 1988 which allowed a principal to remove articles he considered inappropriate if they were written as part of a class. The students appealed and the ruling was upheld by the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, but reversed by the U. S. Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit. The Supreme Court reversed that decision.

New Voices legislation is designed to take away the right of administrators to remove articles.  It also protects advisors from being fired or harassed for something a student writes.

GSSPA is requesting editors and publishers to produce opinion pieces supporting New Voices or, at the very least, assigning reporters to interview their Assemblypersons about the bill.

A169’s primary sponsors are Ralph Caputo, D-28 and Harold Wirths, R-24. Co-sponsors are: Parker Space, R-24; Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37; Erik Peterson, R-23; John DiMaio, R-23; Serena DiMaso, R-13; Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-15; Ryan E. Peters, R-8; Jean Stanfield, R-8; Daniel Benson, D-14; Anthony Verrelli, D-15; Thomas P. Giblin, D-34; Linda S. Carter, D-22; John F. McKeon, D-27; Carol Murphy, D-7; Aura Dunn, R-25; Britnee N. Timberlake, D-34, Christopher P. DePhillips, R-40, and Mila M. Jasey, D-27.

If you want to know more, please contact Jane Primerano of NJ-SPJ, at jprim7@netscape.net, 908-399-4771, or John Tagliareni of the Garden State Scholastic Press Association (GSSPA), at bearfacts1@aol.com  or 201-390-9270.

 

The armband from MaryBeth Tinker’s Tour around the country advocating for student press rights.

The armband from MaryBeth Tinker’s Tour around the country advocating for student press rights.

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