By Quinn Fitzgerald TheStatehouseFile.com INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would have extended First Amendment press freedoms to Indiana middle and high school students died in the House Monday. The vote was 47-45 in favor of House Bill 1016, authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, but failed because it didn’t get the required 51 votes […]
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INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would have extended First Amendment press freedoms to Indiana middle and high school students has died in the House.
Monday’s vote of 47-45 in favor of House Bill 1016 failed because it didn’t get the required 51 votes needed for passage.
Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, who authored the bill, said that more than a dozen other states provide protections for student journalists. His bill also would have extended safeguards to teachers and administrators, Clere said.
“Under this bill, schools retain a high level of control. In fact, they would still have near, total control, but not absolute control,” he said. “At present, there is no such framework, which results in very different experiences for students and school entities throughout Indiana.”
Clere’s bill received broad support from students, school officials, and the state’s public colleges and universities.
Columbus North High School principal David Clark testified Jan. 25 before the House Education Committee in favor of House Bill 1016, which would require administrators and student media advisers to set guidelines for student journalists and their publications.
It would mandate a student media adviser to supervise student journalists in grades 7-12 in creating certain school-sponsored media policies each school year, according to the legislation.
“I’m persuaded that this bill is an opportunity for us to say to our students, you have to be responsible in your work as a journalist,” Clark testified. “You cannot create fake news or alternative facts. You cannot write to harm, defame or hurt.”
But the proposal ran into fierce opposition from other school officials, including the associations representing principals and superintendents.
Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, called the bill an over-reaction to situations in which student journalists were censored by school officials. He argued that most school administrators have positive relationships with their school newspapers.
But granting student journalists the protections that the HB 1016 called for would “erode school corporations and the corporations before them,” Cook said.
Similar to Cook, Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, said the bill would jeopardize student safety, adding that it lacks a basic understanding of the dynamics of a school environment.
“There are reasons we do not extend full constitutional rights to children. They lack the basic brain development that they need,” she said.
Currently, middle and high school student journalists are governed by a 30-year-old U.S. Supreme Court case that allows school administrators to exercise absolute control over student publications.
Rep. Edward DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, argued in favor of passage, saying students need to be encouraged, and that they did not suddenly become naïve about the controversial issues that surround them.
Similar legislation failed in 2017 when, after passing the House by a wide margin, it never got a vote on the Senate floor.
Matthew Kent, a staff writer for The Republic, contributed to this report.