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Oregon legislator prepares free press bill modeled after Washington state bill
Bill has been submitted to legislative counsel to review
March 2, 2007

OREGON -- An Oregon legislator has created a West Coast trend by drafting a student press freedom bill for high school and college student media that resembles a current bill moving through the Washington state legislature.

Rep. Larry Galizio (D-Tigard) submitted the bill, HB 3279, on Feb. 26 to the Chief Clerk's Office after being inspired by the Washington state bill introduced in January by Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines). He said the bill would increase the protection of the student press that already exists in the state laws.

According to the Oregon state Constitution, "No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject matter."

"Oregon does have one of the broadest, if not the broadest free expression state laws out there, which is great," Gazilio said. "Still, because of the sensitive nature of high school students and concerns in a smaller town, there can be situations where a student is writing an article that is not perceived favorable by administration or interests in the community." He said that prior review can often occur in these instances.

As a result, Galizio said students often feel pressure to "succumb" to the administrators' wishes.

"They have rights to freedom of expression that are so critical to journalism. Student voices can be very significant in the so called free marketplace of ideas," Galizio said.

The bill also states that all student school-sponsored media are public forums and that "school officials and governing boards are immune from civil and criminal liability based on student expression."

No state has a law protecting both high school and college students under one statute. Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Massachusetts currently have laws that protect high school student publications from censorship. California recently enacted a separate law protecting college journalists as well.

Co-sponsors for the bill are Reps. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), Deborah Boone (D-Cannon Beach), Peter Buckley (D-Ashland), Ben Cannon (D-Portland), Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone), Mary Nolan (D-Portland), Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland), Chip Shields (D-Portland), Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie) and Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie).

Once the bill has been reviewed by the Legislative Counsel's Office, it is expected to be formally introduced sometime next week for its first reading. The Speaker's Office then has seven calendar days to assign the bill to a committee in the state House of Representatives, according to the Chief Clerk's Office.

By Erica Hudock, SPLC staff writer

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