PR, a Superficial Fix, and Not a Fix at All

August 18- Both high school and college educators in California who back student journalists’ free speech rights will hopefully soon have legal backing of their own to call upon when needed.

 

As the Student Press Law Center reported, Senate Bill 1370, originally dubbed the “Journalism Teachers’ Protection Act,” has passed the state Assembly and Senate. The governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will decide to sign it into law or veto.

 

“Under the legislation, a school employee could not be ‘dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred … solely for acting to protect a pupil engaged in’ constitutionally protected speech,” a Los Angeles Times op-ed explained, partially citing language from the bill. The op-ed later declared: “By providing a narrowly tailored protection for journalism advisors, SB 1370 will help the next generation of media professionals and their mentors, without threatening the educational mission of our schools. The governor should sign the bill.”

 

My Opinion: It is nice to read about the bill’s status as an about-to-become-law. It is simply a shame such a legal mandate is needed at all. Throughout my research on student journalism, I have come across too many instances of administrators suspending, firing or otherwise disciplining a publication adviser or a media outlet’s faculty overseer for work students have created. It is an action normally motivated by nothing more than PR. It is a superficial fix to what is usually a deeper problem. And it seems at times it is not a fix at all, but instead a blow to a person who has the most to offer and is the least to blame. And who knows, while this bill might truly help, maybe it too is nothing more than nice PR, a quick fix or none at all.

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