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Press Advocacy Group Applauds Hawai‘i for Adopting Student Journalism Bill

May 23, 2022, 4:00 PM HST
* Updated May 23, 12:03 PM
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A national press advocacy organization today, Monday, May 23 congratulated the state of Hawai‘i for passing a bill that protects student journalism.

The Student Press Law Center, or SPLC, stated in a news release out of Washington, DC that HB1848, the “Hawaii Student Journalism Protection Act,” was a big step in restoring and protecting the freedom of Hawaii’s student media. Hawaii is the 16th state to adopt such protections, known nationally as “New Voices” laws.

The law, which passed both chambers unanimously and was signed today by Gov. David Ige, ensures that public school and college student journalists alone determine the content of school-sponsored media including newspapers and yearbooks, and are protected from censorship except in narrow, well-defined circumstances. The law also protects student media advisers from retaliation for refusing to illegally censor their students’ work.

“At a time when content-based restrictions on education are being legislated around the country, Hawai‘i has instead adopted a law which values student voices, encourages discussion and debate of civic issues, and recognizes the important contributions of a free student press,” SPLC executive director Hadar Harris said. “We are thrilled that Hawai‘i has become the 16th state to restore full First Amendment protections to student journalists through a New Voices law. Many thanks to the devoted advocates and legislators who made this happen.”

The Student Journalism Protection Act remedies the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier decision, which created an ambiguous and subjective standard for censorship of student-produced school-sponsored media, the news release stated. The standard has meant that, in practice, student journalists can be – and are – censored for virtually any reason.

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The law takes effect immediately. The Student Press Law Center, which was founded in 1974, stated it will continue to work with Hawai‘i schools to ensure that the law is implemented and enforced properly, and that students and advisors are aware of their rights.

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The new law was adopted after years of advocacy by Hawai‘i’s student journalists and advisers.

“I feel so much pride for our state for making history,” said Tiffany Edwards Hunt, adviser of University of Hawai‘i – Hilo’s Ke Kalahea and Kea‘au Middle School’s Greenwaves Gazette. “The fact that we now have one of the most progressive student journalism [protection] laws in the country is a testament to lawmakers’ high regard for a free press and democracy. Mahalo to the governor for signing this legislation and helping to send a message to all student journalists that the fourth estate is alive and well, and highly crucial to the bedrock of democracy.”

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