Please put this on blast: The State of Wisconsin is moving toward passing New Voices legislation. Assembly Bill 551 will have a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 26 (see below) and they need your help.
The Student Press Law Center has a whole roster of information on New Voices legislation throughout the United States. In simplest terms, here’s how it works:
New Voices is a student-powered nonpartisan grassroots movement of state-based activists who seek to protect student press freedom with state laws. These laws counteract the impact of the 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier Supreme Court decision, which dramatically changed the balance of student press rights. New Voices supporters include advocates in law, education, journalism and civics who want schools and colleges to be more welcoming places for student voices.
Seventeen states have this legislation passed in some form, which guarantees student press rights Not only will this free high school media outlets from significant censorship, but it will codify the rights of college student media outlets and voices as well. In short, ham-handed administrators who just don’t like things that fail to paint the rosiest of pictures about their institution can’t crush student media for reporting the facts.
Please read the information forwarded to me last night via Matt Smith, the Wisconsin JEA president about this important hearing and how you can help get this law moving in the right direction
After years of waiting, Wisconsin finally has movement on a New Voices bill that protects student First Amendment rights by stipulating that student journalists are responsible for determining the content of student publications at public secondary schools and colleges! Assembly Bill 551 would prohibit administrative prior review and outline specific, legally defined forms of expression that are unprotected (such as libel, obscenity and invasion of privacy or speech that would cause a substantial disruption of school activities or violate other state or federal laws).
Students at every level need to know they can ask questions about and report on topics that are important to them and their communities without fear that their choices will be made for them or removed altogether. It’s more important than ever that our institutions put learning first and foster environments that develop critical thinking and communication skills our students will need to succeed in future workplaces and as future citizens in a democracy.
URGENT: This Thursday, Oct. 26, at 10 a.m. in Room 412 East of the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison, the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities will hold a public hearing on the bill (Assembly Bill 551). The legislation is sponsored by several representatives, both Republican and Democratic, but it is IMPERATIVE that we show how important this bill is for our students. If at all possible, please help out by doing AT LEAST one of the following in the next couple days.
ATTEND THE HEARING
If it is at all possible for you (or any of your students or former students or anyone else who is supportive) to attend, it would mean a LOT to have more numbers involved. Those in attendance may share some brief testimony outlining their reasons for supporting the legislation. See some suggestions HERE and HERE.
EMAIL STATEMENTS TO THE COMMITTEE CHAIR AND OTHERS
The chair of the committee is Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville). If you (or any of your students or former students or anyone else who is supportive) can send messages of support for the legislation to Rep. Murphy and any of the other committee members (and maybe your own legislators) prior to the hearing on Thursday, that would be amazing. Again, find some suggestions for points to make HERE and HERE. You can find your own legislators using THIS LINK, and contacts for the committee members are below:
PROVIDE VIRTUAL SUPPORT DURING THE HEARING ON THURSDAY
Starting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday the window will open for online testimony that should allow everyone to virtually signal support for the bill. You (or, again, any of your students or former students, etc.) can click THIS LINK to access the legislative calendar. Starting at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday the listing for that day labeled “Colleges and Universities” should provide an option for online-only testimony. Please consider having anyone interested jump in, if they can.
USE THE BILL TO START OR CONTINUE DISCUSSIONS WITH YOUR STUDENTS
The hearing for the legislation may not only help enshrine their rights in state law but also provide a chance to discuss history in the making. Use this as an opportunity to have students research or discuss New Voices laws (the Student Press Law Center is an excellent resource for this). What are the benefits to such legislation? Why is it important? What are conditions like for students at your school?
If you or any students would like to write statements in support of the New Voices bill or explanations of ways they have experienced restrictions on their expression, feel free to send them along to New Voices Wisconsin (email@example.com) or to the Wisconsin Journalism Education Association (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thoughts on this topic may also obviously just be written up and shared in-class, if you prefer.
Follow @newvoiceswisconsin on Instagram.
Feel free to share this email or information with any students or others you know who may be interested!