High School Journalists’ “Zombie Bill” Passes in Washington State

Joe Hinshaw, Reporter

As of March 2, Washington’s House and Senate has passed the “New Voices Act”, adding to the other 13 state’s who’ve advocated for individuality in high school journalism.

According to the Seattle Times, Senate Bill 5064 is a bill that’s been discussed in Washington state for almost a decade. It was first introduced in 2007 and has since taken on various forms within Congress. The bill’s persistence has earned it the title of “Zombie Bill” by legislators. As of now, it is finally becoming state law.

Many current and former Washington state high school students testified before congress about bill 5064, including Haley Keizur, Jacoy Willis, and Brian Schraum, who introduced the first draft of the bill back in 2007.

Other laws currently on the books in Washington have strict rules on administrative oversight, limiting editorial privileges of the students. While individual schools can enforce their own policies, this is overall a disadvantage to both the journalists and the readers, effectively schewing stories to appease the administrators.

The reasoning behind regressive bills advocating for more censorship came out of a Supreme Court ruling in 1988, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, in which the court ruled that media must go through prior review before publishing in efforts to limit embarrassing and questionable content for students.

The new bill would ensure total free press within school-run media, within normal journalistic laws like libel and plagiarism. Student journalists under this law would have full clearance to publish their own opinions without unwarranted encroachment by their superiors.

The House and Senate have pushed through long awaited “New Voices Act” after over a decade of proposals, amendments, and denials. Governor Jay Inslee is set to sign the bill at the 2018 WJEA Spring Write-Off at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish, pointing to a future free from censorship in Washington.