Starting this fall, student journalists in Minnesota will be protected by the nation’s 18th “New Voices” legislation. 

Signed into law May 17, SF 3567 protects the right of student journalists in grades 6-12 at public and charter schools to determine content published in school-sponsored media. It also protects students from censorship in most cases and shields student media advisers from professional retaliation for refusing to unlawfully censor their students’ work. 

“Being able to report without fear will empower them (students) to take on tough stories that matter in their communities and require them to fully invest in the decision-making that brings meaning to the work,” said president Kathryn Campbell, Minnesota High School Press Association (MHSPA). “Instead of expending energy on content challenges and censorship worries, journalism educators can focus their energies on creating stronger, more innovative student newsrooms.”

The law also requires school districts to adopt student media policies that are in keeping with the new protections, a process the Student Press Law Center said it will be monitoring. Campbell recommends school administrations partner with the advisers and student journalists throughout the process of creating new policies.

This law is the product of almost a decade of advocacy from teachers, students and organizers across Minnesota. The National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) would like to congratulate its home-state partner organization, MHSPA, for this victory. 

“NSPA is ecstatic over the passage of this bill that protects students and advisers from threats of censorship in most school-sponsored media. This has been a mission of MHSPA for almost 10 years,” Laura Widmer, executive director of NSPA, said. “I am so happy to see such hard work has paid off. It’s a victory for the student press in Minnesota.”

Campbell said she is “overwhelmed with gratitude for the unified effort” that it took to pass this law, but that the work isn’t done. 

“Even as we celebrate, I hope the law is the first step of advocacy,” Campbell said. “It needs to extend to high school yearbook journalists at some point in time. Whether added to future legislation or not, I hope it will also serve as the standard for private school and college programs in the state.”

This law protects certain student journalists in Minnesota, but is limited in its scope. The protections only apply to public and charter schools and do not extend to yearbooks. 

“It is a great win for student journalism in Minnesota. It was an honor to work with journalism advisers across the state as well as our sponsors for the bill,” Lori Keekley, an associate director of NSPA and Quill and Scroll, said. “As we move forward it is important to educate students, advisers, principals, school boards and others about the significance of this new legislation.”