The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association will help lead an effort to enact state legislation protecting the First Amendment rights of student journalists at high schools and colleges across the state.

New Voices of MichiganMIPA’s executive board unanimously passed a resolution supporting New Voices of Michigan, which was launched with support from the Student Press Law Center following the passage of the John Wall New Voices Act of North Dakota earlier this year.

The effort aims to protect Michigan student journalists from a 1988 Supreme Court decision that significantly reduced their First Amendment rights. In a 5-3 opinion in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, the court’s majority said that schools could legally censor student expression in non-public-forum media for any “legitimate pedagogical purpose.”

Public school and college officials too often misinterpret the ruling as giving them unchecked authority to quash student voices and block legitimate news stories.

“The Hazelwood ruling opened the door for government officials to trample on the basic First Amendment rights of American youth,” said Rod Satterthwaite, who chairs MIPA’s First Amendment Committee and advises the student newspaper at Grosse Pointe South High School. “It’s time to stand up for our Constitution and close the loophole created by this judicial mistake. Our schools and colleges should be places that foster new voices without fear of being punished by an agent of the state.”

MIPA will work closely with the Student Press Law Center to support to the growing New Voices coalition and will help lead efforts to draft legislation and lobby legislators.

“There’s no doubt that robust, student-led journalism programs can help schools across Michigan and the country improve academic standards through the practical application of writing, development of strong research skills, real-world use of technology and encouragement of civic engagement,” said Jeremy Steele, MIPA’s executive director. “But those educational goals are set back by censorship that silences student voices, squashes creativity and shuts down student-led efforts to identify and solve problems in their community.

“Over the years, too many schools have used Hazelwood’s precedent to ignore what’s good for education, and instead sought to censor any journalistic work that asks tough questions or strays from a school’s carefully crafted marketing image.”

Founded in 1921 and housed in the Michigan State University School of Journalism, the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association is a nonprofit organization composed of scholastic journalism teachers and publications advisers and their students. MIPA is committed to promoting and recognizing excellence in scholastic journalism at all levels through education, training and support of student journalists and their advisers.

The text of MIPA’s resolution is below.

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1988 ruling in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, is overly restrictive of the First Amendment rights of student journalists and leads to unwarranted censorship of legitimate speech and;

WHEREAS, robust, student-led journalism programs can help schools across Michigan and the country improve academic standards through the practical application of writing, development of strong research skills, real-world use of technology and encouragement of civic engagement, and;

WHEREAS, few language arts programs naturally are as well aligned as journalism to the aimed outcomes of Common Core State Standards, 21st Century Skills and similar efforts to prepare youth for the modern workforce and to be good citizens, and;

WHEREAS, censorship — in the forms of prior review and prior restraint — is an educationally unsound practice that degrades the quality of a journalism program and damages a unique and powerful educational tool in a school, and;

WHEREAS, mainstream journalism education and professional journalism organizations regularly speak out in opposition to prior review of student media and;

WHEREAS, MIPA’s Code of Ethics, which outlines the rights and the responsibilities of student journalists, says, “Student media shall not be subjected to prior restraints, review or censorship by school administrators, faculty, school board or any other individual outside the editorial board …” without legally defined justification, and;

WHEREAS, the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines that students do not check their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door;

THEREFORE be it resolved that the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association supports the efforts of the New Voices of Michigan coalition to pass legislation protecting student press rights in Michigan and will actively work with coalition partners to see that such legislation becomes law.

Approved by the MIPA Executive Board, Aug. 29, 2015