New bill could protect student journalists in Michigan

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As some students walk and talk through Grand Ledge High School, others are creating the conversation.

“I think we have someone covering it if you don’t wanna go.”

Jackson Vanderlaan is one of the editors for the school newspaper, comet’s tale. The stories he and his classmates write are sometimes hot-button issues.

“Their rule is if we give them heads up on a potentially controversial subject, then they’re fine with what we’re doing,” Vanderlaan said.

The Grand Ledge administration may be easy to work with, but that’s not the case with all school districts. This is why the Student Free Press and Civics Readiness Act was introduced this month.

“Senate bill 848 would help encourage and protect their work by preventing unwarranted censorship of legitimate journalism,” Executive Director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, Jeremy Steele said. said.

He says the new bill will give students extra protection when they’re working and prevents “school officials, who are really government officials, from interfering with the content of that student media unless they have a really good reason,” Steele said.

Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside Steele is high school journalist Chris Robbins.

“Without the protections that are being granted under this bill I wouldn’t be able to do the type of things that I have already been able to do in my school districts,” Robbins said.

Overall, Vanderlaan says it’s about being able to educate the community.

“My view on the first amendment is that if we aren’t able to tell people information, it just perpetuates this idea of a generation that doesn’t understand,” Vanderlaan said.

Those in favor of the bill are looking to make sure administrators across Michigan understand that the First Amendment should apply to all journalists.

“Mr. chair there are five yeas and zero nays. The bill is reported.”

“I’ll make a motion to recommend immediate effect. Seeing no objections, immediate effect is recommended,” said Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

The bill will now go to a vote on the Senate floor.

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