Washington state legislator, student promote free student press bill

Bill should be introduced in 2007 session, aide says

WASHINGTON -- A college student journalist and a Washington state legislator are gauging support for a bill that would ensure free press protections for both high school and college journalists in the state.

Brian Schraum, a former student at Green River Community College who is now a student at Washington State University, said he decided to propose an anti-censorship policy last year at Green River Community College after the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Hosty v. Carter, which could provide public college administrators the authority to censor some student publications.

Schraum, who was also the former editor in chief of The Current, Green River Community College’s student newspaper, said he wanted to protect the newspaper after the Hosty decision.

“I thought it would be a good idea to see if our college could get a policy going about censorship,” Schraum said.

Schraum said he attempted to propose a policy that would protect student journalists against censorship at Green River Community College but was turned down by school officials who cited the Hosty decision as the reason for refusing to implement a censorship policy.

Schraum said he then contacted state Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-SeaTac) over the summer to talk about proposing a state-wide anti-censorship law. He said he told state Rep. Upthegrove that most censorship takes place in high school, but wanted to include both high school and college student publications in the bill.

Upthegrove’s proposed bill ensures that “no school official nor the governing board of the school or school district” will interfere with students’ free speech and free press rights, and that student media will not be subject to mandatory prior review.

“Our biggest support group is students,” Schraum said. “Those are the people I’m working with.”

The earliest date that the bill can be filed is Dec. 18, and state Rep. Upthegrove will request a hearing for the bill when the legislative session re-opens on Jan. 8, according to a spokesperson from his office.

If the bill is made law, Washington will become the seventh state with laws supporting a free student press. The proposed bill is unique from other states’ laws because it would protect speech at both the high school and college levels under one statute.

Schraum said the bill is stuck in a “waiting game” but said he remains confident about its chances of success.

“I think it is positive getting feedback from other students who want to get involved,” Schraum said. “We are recruiting more students to help with the lobbying effort and students are keeping the faith.”

Green River Community College, news, The Current, Washington

More Information

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