Speak your mind

The New Voices Act should pass next year


Bethany Mann via Canva Graphics

Protection from censorship is vital for all student journalists and is needed in Texas.

Bethany Mann, News/Feature Editor

The New Voices Act, led by The Student Press Law Center, first appeared in 2015 after a unanimous decision by the North Dakota legislature passed it into law. The Act focuses on protecting student journalists from censorship and is vital to have in public schools. Since North Dakota, 15 more states have passed similar legislation, and it’s time Texas did the same.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed, through the First Amendment, to all citizens of the United States – no matter age, race, or gender. Student journalists, though young, have the same right to speak their mind as adults, and they deserve to have that right protected. The belief that  the younger a person is, the less they know represents a naive view. The words of students need to be heard, and the New Voices Act ensures they will.

The Supreme Court case, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, ruled public school administrators have the power to censor school newspapers if they deem the content “inappropriate,” but sometimes that’s what news is. Student journalists provide news. News is essential in life. Any understanding, any learning, any knowledge comes from news. But without the New Voices Act, the news that student journalists provide can and will be censored. 

A certain ethical and moral code comes with being a journalist, and if students are not given the opportunity to find their own, and their publications’ own moral code, they are stripped of the ability to grow as people and writers. With the New Voices Act, school newspaper staffs, along with their advisers, will have the freedom to decide what can and cannot be published in their publications.. This, in turn, will not only bring more efficient and interesting news but will also teach students to make their own ethical decisions.

Some argue the ability to censor student journalists does not matter because they are not yet adults, claiming they cannot make such important decisions until then. However, the age of a person does not limit their intellectual thought. So much of the disconnect in society is due to adults dismissing kids when their views are just as important. Students are the future. Students are the present. The New Voices Act will allow for students’ voices to be heard today rather than tomorrow, closing the gap between adults and teenagers.

The New Voices Act is vital in protecting the freedom of student journalists and needs to be passed in the 2023 legislative session.