TRENTON, N.J. – School districts and institutions of higher education must adopt policies protecting students’ freedom of expression under legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Hal Wirths and signed by the governor on Tuesday.
The legislation (A169/S108) gives student journalists in public schools, as well as public colleges and universities, the right to determine the content of school-sponsored media like newspapers and blogs, and exercise freedom of speech.
“Student journalists often serve as important watchdogs by holding those in power accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, school-sponsored media is more easily censored,” Wirths (R-Sussex) said. “This new law upholds the principles of the First Amendment. Free student press gives budding journalists a platform to share stories that should not be suppressed.”
Except in cases where a story is libelous, obscene, incites violence or constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy, student reporters have the right to free speech under the law.
“We live in a world where it is all too easy to tune out differing or uncomfortable opinions or viewpoints, but it is critical to a free society that we allow everyone to express themselves. We should never be afraid to print the truth and should always encourage the freedom of press,” Wirths added.
Under the law, schools must have a written policy concerning students’ right to free speech in place by the first full school year after enactment.