High school newspaper bill pulled, now in limbo

By NICHOLAS TRUJILLO

After unanimously passing the Arizona State Senate, State Bill 1384 failed to get past the House.

The bill granted student journalists better protections against school administrations. It enabled student editors, instead of advisers, to regulate the content of their newspapers.

Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-District 20, introduced the bill, but House Majority Leader John Allen, R-District 15, pulled it after an hour of debate.

A local high-school journalism adviser was surprised the bill got as far as it did.

“This mirrors the current presidential administration and their disregard for journalists and the First Amendment,” Tucson High journalism adviser James Bourland said.

“Conservative lawmakers did what they do best, which is to find any way to disenfranchise our youth,” he said.

Initial support for the bill was met with heavy opposition from Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-District 12.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, Farnsworth argued, “we don’t even need the bill, the First Amendment already exists. If schools are violating the First Amendment, then it’s an actionable offense.”

Sen. Russell “Rusty” Bowers, R-District 25, went further to say the idea of students learning journalism being considered “real journalists” is akin to people who conclude that their ability to finger paint makes them an artist.

However, Supreme Court case Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier blurs the lines of the First Amendment. In that case, the court ruled that principals and administrators could prohibit certain articles deemed inappropriate for the school.

Daily Wildcat news editor Nick Meyers addressed concerns that high school students would be covering topics over their heads explaining the role of advisers.

“Like art, there are no requirements to being a journalist,” Meyers said. “At least high schoolers are in a place where they’re provided ethical guidance and are likely more cognizant of journalistic ethics than journalists simply trying to score ratings.”

There was some support for the bill.

Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-District 18, wanted to expand the scope of SB 1384 to require some schools to adopt a written policy on student-run media.

Regardless of the support, Allen tabled the bill.
SB 1384 is not technically dead, however. To bring back the bill would take a lot of negotiating by Yee with a house that had almost no support.

Nicholas Trujillo

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