Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Isabella Paredes, Nicole Barlik and Annabella Barry
HB 5902 was placed on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk nearly four weeks after both houses passed the bill unanimously.
HB 5902 refers to the Speech Rights of Student Journalists Act that gives scholastic journalists the First Amendment rights that the Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier ruling of 1988 took away. This bill will give student journalists the right to decide what their publication will publish, as long as it is not libelous, slanderous or unlawful.
“Our law moves us back to the Tinker standard,” Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), the first state representative to introduce the bill to the house said. Tinker vs. Des Moines was the 1969 Supreme Court case that ruled in students’ speech rights favor saying, “Students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates.”
Guzzardi first learned about the bill from Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook), who had an interest in the bill but did not have the time to pursue it, so she handed the duty to Rep. Guzzardi.
At first, Guzzardi faced opposition from organizations of school board members and principals who objected to some components of the bill. But ultimately, the bill passed with no opposition, which Guzzardi credits to amendments and bipartisanship.
Guzzardi worked closely with concerned school administration to ensure that students would be held accountable for libelous reporting, adding three amendments to the original bill.
Guzzardi also worked closely with Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard), which insured that both parties would back the bill.
“There are strong constitutional reasons why you should not have prior restraint by administrators,” Charlie Wheeler, the Dean of Public Affairs Reporting at University of Illinois in Springfield, said. Wheeler said people need to be informed and trust student journalists.
Guzzardi said if people want to have student journalists that are insightful, critical thinkers then they have to allow them to be critical and challenge administrators.
Starting on June 27, Gov. Rauner has sixty days to approve the bill.