Oregon student free expression law (public colleges)



In addition to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, states can provide additional free speech protection their own citizens by enacting state laws or regulations. The Oregon Student Free Expression Law is such a provision and provides student journalists attending Oregon public high school and colleges with added protection against administrative censorship. (Ore. Rev. Stat. sec. 336.477 provides similar protection to the state's public secondary school student media.)

Ore. Rev. Stat. sec. 351.649 (2007):

AN ACT Relating to student journalists; and declaring an emergency.

Whereas the Legislative Assembly finds that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are fundamental principles in our democratic society granted to every citizen of the nation by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and to every resident of this state by section 8, Article I of the Oregon Constitution; and

Whereas these freedoms provide all citizens, including students, with the right to engage in robust and uninhibited discussion of issues; and

Whereas the Legislative Assembly intends to ensure free speech and free press protections for both high school students and students at institutions of higher education in this state in order to encourage students to become educated, informed and responsible members of society; now, therefore,

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:

351.649 Student journalists; student expression; civil action.

(1) For the purposes of this section:

(a) "Public institution of higher education" means

(A) A community college

(B) A state institution of higher education listed in ORS 352.002; and

(C) The Oregon Health and Science University.

(b) "School-sponsored media" means materials that are prepared, substantially written, published or broadcast by student journalists, that are distributed or generally made available, either free of charge or for a fee, to members of the student body and that are prepared under the direction of a student media adviser. "School-sponsored media" does not include media intended for distribution or transmission solely in the classrooms in which they are produced.

(c) "Student journalist" means a student who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media.

(d) "Student media adviser" means a person who is employed, appointed or designated by a public institution of higher education to supervise, or provide instruction relating to, school-sponsored media.

(2) Student journalists are responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature and advertising content of school-sponsored media. This subsection does not prevent a student media adviser from teaching professional standards of English and journalism to the student journalists.

(3) Nothing in this section may be interpreted to authorize expression by students that:

(a) Is libelous or slanderous;

(b) Constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy;

(c) Violates federal or state statutes, rules or regulations or state common law; or

(d) So incites students as to create a clear and present danger of:

(A) The commission of unlawful acts on or off school premises; 

(B) The violation of school policies; or 

(C) The material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. A school official must base a forecast of material and substantial disruption on specific facts, including past experience in the school and current events influencing student behavior, and not on undifferentiated fear or apprehension.

(4) Any student enrolled in a public institution of higher education may commence a civil action to obtain damages under this subsection and appropriate injunctive or declaratory relief as determined by a court for a violation of subsection (2) of this section, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or section 8, Article I of the Oregon Constitution. Upon a motion, a court may award $100 in damages and injunctive and declaratory relief to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action brought under this subsection.