- Associated Press - Thursday, March 2, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A bill protecting high school and college students’ rights to publish and speak freely in school-sponsored media passed the state Senate Thursday.

Senate Bill 5064 passed on a 45-4 bipartisan vote and now heads to the House for consideration.

Republican Sen. Joe Fain, the sponsor of the measure, called it an important bill that reasserts the value of journalism by ensuring that student journalists at the high school and college level “have the types of free speech protections that we Americans have always associated with journalism.”

Under the measure, student editors would be fully responsible for determining what goes into their publication or broadcast. School administrators would not be allowed to censor or review any content before publishing unless it contains libelous or slanderous material, or is obscene or incites students to commit unlawful acts on school grounds.

“I think it’s very important that those young people see the responsibility that they have when they are put in a position as young journalists to responsibly exercise these rights of free speech,” Fain said.

In the past, high schools in Washington state have been sued by students because of student newspapers publishing slanderous material.

The bill would exempt school officials from any civil or criminal liability resulting from school-sponsored media. It also ensures a student media adviser cannot be terminated, transferred or otherwise disciplined for not censoring students’ speech.

“I think it will continue to install the value of free speech and freedom of expression both for our community at large and particularly for the next generation,” Fain said.

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