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Student Journalism Bill Dies in House

El'ad Nichols-Kaufman, Writer

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At the statehouse on February 5th, Indiana HB 1016 was defeated. This bill is of a special interest to this paper, since its purpose was to make student publications not subject to school censorship, unless the publication published a piece which was libelous, slanderous, violated the law or incited students to create a clear and present danger, violated school policies or disrupted the school setting. This is not the first time this type of bill has failed in Indiana. In 2017, HB 1013, which said virtually the same thing, passed the House and died in the Senate.

While many schools do not censor their publications, there are also many who try to destroy all mentions of controversial issues or criticism of teachers and school administration. The students from one such school, Plainfield High School has been strongly advocating for this bill, as their magazine had been forced to undergo serious changes, including a different name, after creating an issue on dating. They were forced to rewrite most of the magazine after school administration and parents claimed it advocated “casual sex… is OK”. Other schools, although out of state, have censored publications dealing with serious issues such as  abortion or LGBTQ rights, claiming they are “controversial” and shouldn’t be released. Students under these censorship laws claim they can’t state their minds, and that they are not allowed to express their beliefs.

On the other hand, school administration groups widely opposed this bill. The Indiana School Boards Association and the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents argued that instead, the power of whether or not to censor should be given to administrators. They were joined by most Republicans, many of whom believe that there is no reason for a bill like this, and who are worried that administrators may be held responsible for controversial content in student papers if students could print anything they want.

The bill was defeated narrowly, and more representatives voted for it than against it, with a total of 47 for and 45 against. However, the state of Indiana requires that a bill have 51 votes to pass, and eight representatives did not vote. Four democrats broke with the caucus to vote against the bill, which caused it to fail. This bill had the potential to truly advance freedom of speech in Indiana schools, yet in truth, few people truly value the worth of student publications.

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Student Journalism Bill Dies in House