ND student press gets more freedom

May 1, 2015

BISMARCK, ND—North Dakota high school and college journalists will soon gain the rights of their adult counterparts as the recently-legislated “New Voices Act” goes into effect. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the bill in April after it passed both houses of the legislature without a dissenting vote.

The bill prevents school authorities from exercising prior restraints over student media except when they are about to publish libelous or slanderous material, invade privacy, violate state or federal law or incite students to create a clear and present danger to the institution. It also restricts authorities from disciplining student journalists or controlling their activities outside of school.

The bill was endorsed by the North Dakota Newspaper Association. The National Newspaper Association board of directors in March voted unanimously to support the bill.

NDNA Executive Director Steve Andrist said, “It was a truly amazing effort in North Dakota, started by a group of communications students at a small, private, liberal arts college—The University of Jamestown. Their adviser/teacher, Steve Listopad, carried the torch on keeping the momentum going.”

NDNA’s newsletter covered Listopad’s testimony before a legislative committee:

“Listopad, student media coordinator at Valley City State University, told the committee that the bill would help students to become good journalists and to teach them about civic engagement.

“‘We don’t want the new voices in our world retreating to the dark recesses of the Internet to have important conversations,’ Listopad said. ‘We want those conversations to happen in the light of day, where they can cared for and nurtured.’”

Student Press Law Center in Washington mentors student journalists and their advisers on exercising their First Amendment rights. Similar bills are being discussed in a number of states where federal court rulings limiting student press rights have caused journalism groups to ask their legislatures to affirm the importance of student free speech and press.