By NICHOLAS TRUJILLO
Almost five months after its inception, Arizona Senate Bill 1384 is nearly halfway through the process of becoming law.
The bill would allow more protection for high school journalists to freely cover news without fear of censorship from administrators, alleviating restrictions from a 1988 case known as Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier.
In the Hazelwood case, the U.S Supreme Court ruled school administrations have control over print publications if instruction is offered at the school.
As an example, if an administrator didn’t want a story about a certain topic to be published, he could say the topic was inappropriate.
SB 1384 specifies that if the story is not libelous, does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy, does not violate federal or state law or incite students to violate the law, the story can be published.
No prior restraint may be put on the newspaper. If the administration does find a story is within the four parameters, the bill says “the public school has the burden of providing lawful justification without undue delay.”
State Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-District 20, said the bill is currently in the House, awaiting passage.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously. In the House education committee, the bill had one vote nay, from Rep. David Stringer, R-District 1.
The bill has moved from the education committee to the House Committee of Rules. The committee will review the bill and can offer amendments.
After the rules committee, the bill will transfer to the Committee of the Whole for a full vote. After that, the bill would still have a winding road before reaching the governor for his signature.
The idea for the bill began nearly 25 years ago when Yee working on her high school newspaper. A cartoonist and other staff members experienced censorship that was backed by the Hazelwood ruling.
Early efforts to introduce a bill similar to SB 1384 fizzled. Yee introduced the new bill and said, “all stakeholders had input and there was no opposition to the bill.”