House Bill 1130 would have been a powerful affirmation of the First Amendment in Indiana. That was, if it had only passed. The student journalists behind the push have seen their effort disintegrate in the face of cold, hard bureaucracy.
“Several of Indiana’s high school and college student journalists, publications advisers and directors of Indiana’s press associations have worked with Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany to dial back strong censorship practices some school administrators have incorporated since the 1988 Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision,” wrote Diana Hadley, executive director of the Indiana High School Press Association, in her column in today’s paper. “Twelve states already have rules or statutes that returned student press freedom to a Tinker v. Des Moines standard, and 18 others are working on legislation.”
As a refresher, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier said student journalists were subject to a lower level of protections by the First Amendment. In Tinker v. Des Moines, which was the earlier standard Hazelwood undid, the Supreme Court found students enjoyed the same constitutional protections as everyone else; as it should be.
Yet, HB 1130 looks to be languishing at the Statehouse, and it’s a real shame. This would have been a chance for Indiana to join the 12 other states that carry these protections for student journalists. The next generation of journalists needs to understand the importance of the First Amendment and the protections it offers. Starting them off without these safeguards sets a bad example and has the potential to drive young talent away from the protection.
We hope in the future lawmakers in Indianapolis recognize the importance of laws like this one.