The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and supporters of the New Voices of Michigan movement applaud the introduction of the Student Free Press and Civics Readiness Act.

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, introduced the Student Free Press and Civics Readiness Act.

Senate Bill 848 was introduced this week by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Steve Bieda, D-Warren; Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; and Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton.

The legislation sets a simple, common-sense standard of harmful material that a school can restrict from student media, including libel or obscenity. It would bring clarity to a mishmash of legal cases that often lead to confusion among public school officials and student journalists.

“Our public schools, colleges and universities should be places that foster new voices and encourage young people to be active, engaged citizens,” said Jeremy Steele, executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, which is coordinating the New Voices effort in Michigan. “The Student Free Press and Civics Readiness Act takes a reasoned approach to balance the responsibility of school administrators to protect students from harm with the vital need to educate young people about the importance of the Constitution and the benefits of being civically engaged.”

New Voices of Michigan is a coalition of students, educators and free speech advocates working to protect the individual liberties of student journalists in public high schools, colleges and universities across Michigan.

New Voices campaigns are active in 19 states and legislation has been recently introduced in six other states.

The movement was spurred by the unanimous passage last year of the John Wall New Voices Act in North Dakota. That law made North Dakota the eighth state to protect student journalists from unwarranted censorship.

SB 848 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.