Landmark student free-press law passes IL House

Rep. Guzzardi’s bill to protect high school journalists from censorship now faces Senate consideration


SPRINGFIELD (April 19, 2016)–A civil liberties bill introduced by State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-39) passed unanimously out of the Illinois House of Representatives on Tuesday and will now face a vote in the Senate.

The bill, known as the “Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act,” guarantees protection from censorship to high school publications. The bill responds to several cases in which high school student newspapers and individual journalists were prohibited from publishing stories because administration objected to the critical nature of the content.

Presently, administration has broad authority to restrict the publication of content in student-run media. Under this bill, the only stories that could be censored are those that are libelous, contain hate speech, violate privacy laws, or incite students to disrupt the orderly operation of the school.

The bill is part of a national trend, as nine other states have enacted similar statutes.

Guzzardi, himself a former professional journalist and high school newspaper editor, noted that students should be encouraged to think critically about their school and community.

“Every day in student newspaper classes around the state, students are learning the best practices of fair and balanced reporting. Sometimes their stories are critical of practices in their school, but that’s no reason those stories shouldn’t be run,” Guzzardi said.

“The student press is the incubator for future journalists, social scientists and reformers,” Guzzardi added. “If we want a healthy public debate, we need the next generation to know that it’s not only okay but encouraged to challenge authority and think critically about the world around them.”

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-9) is the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate.


About author

Tony Smith

Tony Smith is a news reporter and meteorologist. He’s worked in Miami, Omaha, Norfolk, Greensboro and Las Vegas. But Chicago is home for this weatherman. Tony is looking forward to working with other NABJCC board members in-order bring together Chicagoland journalists dedicated to truth and excellence in newsgathering, reporting, and equality in the media industry. You can hear Tony on WVON-AM 1690AM as a fill-in News/Traffic Anchor & Meteorologist. He encourages everyone to follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


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