An Oregon legislator is introducing a bill that would protect free speech and a free press for students writing for high school and college newspapers. The bill would more fully extend First Amendment freedom of speech protection in Oregon to high school and college students.
An Oregon legislator is introducing a bill that would protect free speech and a free press for students writing for high school and college newspapers.
The bill would more fully extend First Amendment freedom of speech protection in Oregon to high school and college students. However, both the legislator and one of Oregon’s leading First Amendment lawyers say that the bill may not be needed.
The bill by Rep. Larry Galizio, D-Tigard, closely resembles a bill that recently passed through a preliminary stage in Washington state’s Legislature. Galizio is working to present the document to Oregon’s Legislature by the Feb. 26 cut-off.
“As an educator,” said Galizio, who teaches journalism at Portland Community College, “I’m concerned with the well-being of Oregon students and the state of our public schools.”
In Oregon, the state constitution offers greater First Amendment protection than the federal Constitution. Galizio said that some people might think his bill is unnecessary, but is worthy of discussion.
Charles Hinkle, a Portland attorney specializing in First Amendment and publications issues, said that while the statute is a good idea, there has been no need of such a law in Oregon for years.
“There’s been no evidence that the system is broken-so why fix it?” Hinkle said. “The only problems we know of have been in high schools, and that was over 10 years ago.”
Students’ First Amendment rights have been at risk since a June 2005 decision in the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Hosty v. Carter, allowed college administrators in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin some abilities to censor student publications. The U.S. Supreme Court declined in February 2006 to review the ruling.
The Seventh Circuit Court ruling extended to college administrators the censorship powers the Supreme Court had earlier given only to high school administrators in a 1989 case, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier.
Mark Goodman, executive director for the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., said that students, and especially editors of college newspapers, are aware of the Hosty decision.
Before the Hosty case, Goodman said, there had not been a need for legislation protecting college students because of the protection provided by the First Amendment.
“Hosty v. Carter made people realize that we shouldn’t feel too secure,” Goodman said.
Oregon, Washington and California are the only states considering bills benefiting college as well as high school students. For high school students, 30 states have considered legislation and only five have become law.
The Oregon Constitution’s Article I, Section 8 guarantees that everyone has the “right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever.”
Washington’s bill, 1307, passed through a judiciary committee with seven votes from all the Democratic legislators. Galizio said he hopes to have bipartisan support from Oregon’s legislators.
“Free expression and fostering a quality educational experience shouldn’t be partisan issues,” Galizio said.
The legislative counsel is redrafting the bill and Galizio will assemble co-sponsors before it is sent to a committee.
“There is really excellent journalism in Oregon that is deserving of support,” Goodman said. “A bill like this would be a natural step for anyone concerned with a quality education for students of all ages.”