State representative introduces legislation to protect student press rights

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri

State Rep. Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, this week introduced legislation to protect the rights of student journalists in public schools and universities.

House Bill 4551, the Student Free Press Act, was introduced April 27 and referred to the Committee on Education Reform. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Jim Ellison, Jeremy Moss, Brian Elder, Abdullah Hammoud, Kristy Pagan and Erika Geiss.

“The protections of the First Amendment shouldn’t stop at the school doors,” Camilleri said in announcing the legislation. “Not only do student publications teach valuable skills that young people can use later in their education or in their professional life, but they also instill a core American value of a free and open press as a vital part of a functioning democracy.”

The bill would protect student journalists from censorship as long their work:

  • is not libelous or slanderous;
  • does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy;
  • does not violate federal or state law;
  • does not incite students so as to create a clear and present danger that they may commit an unlawful act, violate school or state board of education policies, or materially and substantially disrupt the orderly operation of the school or public institution or higher education.

“Student media serves as a laboratory for tomorrow’s citizens to develop their voices and practice the core constitutional values on which our democracy was built,” said Jeremy Steele, executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, which represents nearly 300 member student media outlets at more than 160 middle and high schools. “Those spaces should be free of unwarranted censorship.

“We look forward to working with Rep. Camilleri as this bill works its way through the legislative process.”

Similar laws exists in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Maryland and Oregon and campaigns to pass similar legislation are active in nearly 20 states.