HB 1307 would give students the entire power at public colleges and most of the power in public high schools — which is where the controversy is. It would allow the high-school principal to read the paper before going to press and to make changes to avoid libel, invasion of privacy or incitement to disruption. If he changed anything, he and the school district could face a lawsuit for going beyond these exceptions. If he changed nothing, all the liability would be held by the student editor (and perhaps his parents).
The students who spoke for the bill said they were willing to take the responsibility. But when a teenager says, "I'll take the responsibility," what does it mean? Maybe not a lot.
Most interesting was the attitude of the teachers. They all supported the bill. Though it would leave a teacher with no more legal power than the principal, legal power is not the only kind of power there is. The teacher is with the students. Often the conflicts over what can be printed are between the teacher and the principal.
Really, this is a bill to enhance the power of journalism teachers. It allows the students to pretend they are adult journeymen, which they are not, and allows the teachers to get the principals off their backs. It has little to do with the world those students will inhabit if they go to work for a real newspaper.
Feb 7, 2007
HB 1307 all about power-hungry journalism teachers, columnist claims
In an op-ed for the Times, Bruce Ramsey dials in a lot of the same issues we've already discussed here. However, he adds another wrinkle to the debate: