Saint Paul, Minn. – State Representative Cheryl Youakim (DFL – Hopkins) and State Senator Susan Kent (DFL – Woodbury) have authored a bill that helps clarify the important role student journalists have in their school communities.
“With my own children’s experience, and now working in a school setting, I’ve enjoyed watching student journalists build skills and engage in the most critical tool of our democracy, the free press,” said Rep. Youakim. “Press freedom creates an environment where students are empowered to make decisions and ask questions about the content they know is important to their school communities.”
State Senator Kent agreed. “The sooner students and possibly one day journalists can learn the importance and gravity of their jobs to society – the better. I like that this bill helps foster civic engagement – that’s something we should all be encouraging in our high school students. Nurturing these concepts of free speech, investigation, and integrity will make better citizens out of our students.”
The bill makes the limits of protected speech clear to budding journalists, and it will update Minnesota law on the topic similar to the eight other states that have implemented student journalist laws.
Students will have control over the content in all of the media they publish with set guidelines in the bill (HF 2537) that include:
The need for journalism advisors to teach journalist standards set forward by the society of professional journalism: including the principles of—truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability.
Set standards for school administration to follow regarding student's ability to publish.
If a student’s story is deemed libelous, slanderous, disruptive of the school day and profane or obscene, an administrator would have the ability to say no.
Lori Keekley, a Master Journalism Educator and the newspaper advisor at St. Louis Park High School, also sits on the board of the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission.
"By empowering students to make content choices, they learn so much more than if I or an administrator were to dictate decisions to them,” said Mrs. Keekley, “We have many, many more robust conversations examining all sides of the issues while applying legal statutes and journalism ethics."
“We know that where students are more empowered through press freedoms, they are more civically engaged in their schools and in the communities they move into as adults,” added Rep. Youakim. “I am focusing on K-12 students because that is where we see the greatest variance in policy and practice across the state. We need to be engaging these students, they are the future of a healthy democracy in Minnesota.”