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Nebraska advances press protections for student journalists

Posted at 3:20 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 20:13:08-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP & KMTV) — Nebraska lawmakers have advanced a bill that would extend free-press protections to student journalists and their advisers following several incidents where school administrators censored school newspaper articles that they deemed too controversial or unflattering.

Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval on a 28-15 vote after an eight-hour filibuster. The bill would apply to students at public high schools, colleges and universities.

Many who opposed the bill said high schools should be taken out of the bill and it should only apply to colleges and universities. That amendment, introduced by Nebraska Sen. Joni Albercht did not pass.

Senators were also concerned that the bill would allow student media to become an open public forum. An amendment introduced by Nebraska Sen. Steve Halloran would leave the decision of allowing student press to become a public forum up to the local districts and school boards.

Nebraska Sen. Mike Groene said the bill gives too much responsibility to young people.

"They are no more journalists than a first-year med school student is a doctor or the young individual who goes to Nebraska and takes their first law class...they are not a lawyer," Groene said.

The bill's sponsor, Nebraska Sen. Adam Morfeld argued that students have a right to express themselves and that it’s important for them to learn firsthand about the power and consequences of the First Amendment.

Morfeld added that while the bill does give students protections, it doesn't give them full control. He said under the bill, school administrations can still stop publication in instances of libel.