Advocate for New Voices

NewVoicesStudent journalists need the First Amendment as much as their adult counterparts do, but they don’t always get the same protection.

In 1988, when the Supreme Court ruled in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, students’ free speech rights were left in the hands of administrators who could exercise “editorial control over the style and content of student speech in school-sponsored expressive activities.”

College journalist Kelcey Caulder tells how such editorial control feels:

“I’m 21 and a college journalist now, and I still feel pressure to write about things that other people deem appropriate rather than what I think is important or even relevant to my experience. But sometimes I remember— “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”—and I wonder why these rights do not seem to apply to me. Aren’t I American, too?”

But there’s hope. States are able to make laws more lenient than the Hazelwood ruling, laws that would give student journalists the same right to write and speak enjoyed by adult journalists.

The New Voices Project is helping educators, students, and community members to work to have their states pass this legislation:

“the New Voices Act, [ ]a comprehensive educational legislation that will…
• restore the Tinker standard of student expression in public high schools. TheTinker Standard (1967) protects student speech unless it is libelous, an invasion of privacy or creates a “clear and present danger” or a “material and substantial disruption” of the school.
• protect public colleges from dangerous court interpretations that apply the Hazelwood standard to higher education, where almost all students involved are adults.
• extend the expression rights that public college students expect to students at private colleges.”

North Dakota has passed such a law and campaigns for the legislation are underway in a number of other states.

Join NCTE and our assembly AASP/JEA, won’t you, and advocate for New Voices legislation in your state.


About Millie Davis

Millie Davis is Senior Developer for Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition she works on NCTE’s communications efforts, particularly on social media. Millie's passion is working with literacy teachers across the country and beyond whose passion for their students and their students' learning is their reason for going to work each day.

One thought on “Advocate for New Voices

  1. I agree with Ms. Davis’ interpretation of how culture and the state are lenient when it comes to matter of free speech concerning middle to high school level students. I have overheard teachers in the past suggest and implement the notion that as teachers in middle and high school settings that we should not discuss anything “too controversial”. This limits students’ access to free speech and suffocating their right to free speech. I think that it is tremendous that North Dakota is moving in the right direction to protect the students at their impressionable ages.

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