- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2016

A bill introduced Wednesday to the Missouri House would protect the free speech rights of high school and college student reporters.

The Walter Cronkite New Voices Act, introduced by Republican state Rep. Elijah Haahr, mirrors a law that went into effect in North Dakota last year. It would prevent school authorities from restricting student media except when they publish libelous material, invade privacy, violate the law or incite students to create a clear and present danger to the institution, The Missouri Times reported.

It also would restrict authorities from disciplining student journalists or controlling their activities outside of school.

Mr. Haahr said the bill removes the blanket effect from the Supreme Court Case of Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, which gave school districts that fund student newspapers the right to remove disruptive content, a local CBS News affiliate reported.

“Missouri is the home of one of the world’s most famous and iconic journalists in Walter Cronkite, but also the home of the Hazelwood decision that saw the rights of student journalists suppressed,” he said. “My hope is that we can reestablish Missouri as a place that supports the freedom of the press, and protects the rights of high school and college student journalists.”

The bill is still in its early stages but Mr. Haahr said the Missouri Journalism Education Association, the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri College Media Association are working to secure its passage.

The proposed legislation comes as dozens of Republicans state lawmakers call for the University of Missouri to fire assistant professor Melissa Click, after she was caught on video last fall demanding “some muscle” against a student journalist at a campus protest.

“It would be good if Missouri was known more as being a protector of free speech than being one that was known for censoring that speech,” said Mr. Haahr.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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