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Student journalism bill fails in Indiana House

HB 1016 photo

Current and former Indiana High School Press Association Directors Ryan Gunterman and Diana Hadley add up the potential yes, no and undecided votes for H.B. 1016 during the morning session at the Indiana Statehouse Feb. 1. The bill focused on strengthening student journalists’ rights. It was defeated for lack of a 51-vote constitutional majority Monday, Feb. 5. The final vote was 47-46. In 2017, a similar bill passed in the House but later died in the Senate. Courtesy of Hoosier State Press Association Buy Photos

A bill that would have provided press freedom protections for students in grades 7 through 12 failed Monday in the Indiana House of Representatives.

House Bill 1016 would have required school corporations and charter schools to adopt a policy that would protect student journalists. The bill would have required a teacher to advise student media organizations and makes schools, corporations or educational institutions immune from civil liability for any injury that resulted from student media.

It also stated that school corporations could not censor student media unless certain conditions apply.

Lawmakers voted 47-46, failing to meet a congressional majority of 51 votes.

The author of the bill, Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said the potential legislation was similar to protections for student journalists in other states. He also said the bill helps protect teachers and administrators. 

Those against the bill argued it could bring chaos to schools, not giving schools enough control. Some even thought it was unnecessary. 

"This is an overreaction to a few incidents, in a few schools," Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero, said.

A similar bill passed through the House last year but failed to become a law.

Stephen Key, executive director and general counselor for the Hoosier State Press Association, said the biggest disappointment was that opposers of the bill used scare tactics to persuade people to vote against it.

He said there has been no evidence of chaos or increased bullying or fighting in the other states that have similar laws.

He added that while he doesn’t know what the next steps for the bill will be, he plans to work with other supporters to make the bill better and gain more support.

“Student journalists shouldn’t give up on the idea of being able to practice and learn the responsibilities and importance of journalists,” Key said.

He said he’s optimistic a bill protecting student journalists will eventually be put into law. He said he believes that Hoosiers want freedom of speech and of the press. 

For current student journalists, his biggest advice is to educate others about student journalism and continue to be patient.

“Giving up is not an option,” Key said.

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