Legislation for the Rights of Student Journalists


Madison Mitchell

Student journalists are hard at work while exercising their First Amendment rights.

Madison Mitchell, Flash Reporter

A new bill was created to protect the rights of student journalists in schools. This new legislation, House Bill 4551, was created by State Representative Darrin Camilleri driven by his concern for the First Amendment of the United States Constitution: freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is obviously something we should be protecting for students, but I also think that journalism represents so many of the values we want to promote to keep our democracy strong. I hope this bill will give student journalists the confidence to pursue stories and reporting what they believe promote awareness of important community issues for their peers,” Representative Camilleri said.  

In 2016, a similar bill was being considered in the Michigan Legislature, Senate Bill 848, to protect student journalism. This bill failed to pass in Michigan, but with more urges for student rights, new legislation is being introduced.

Although this bill has not been passed yet, Director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association, Jeremy Steele, has good hopes for the effect it will have on student journalism.

“We appreciate the interest that Rep. Camilleri has shown in this important issue, and we look forward to working with him and other legislators to support students as they learn about and practice core constitutional values,” Steele said.

In the past, there have been incidents where student journalists have been censored by administrators, prohibiting their right to freedom of the press. For example, in 2004, a senior journalist at Utica High School, Katherine Dean, wrote an article having to do with Utica school buses potentially harming the health of nearby residents. Utica’s school administrators censored the article under unjust terms; Dean fought to defend her First Amendment rights in the Michigan Supreme Court where she won her case against the school board.

On May 9, 2017, Arizona’s Senate passed the Senate Bill 1384 protecting student journalists’ rights, inspiring Representative Camilleri’s bill. He proposed this bill in April 2017 to the Michigan House of Representatives.

Considering both sides, an attempt was made to reach out to the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. They did not respond.

Although some administrators and organizations have opposed bills such as this in the past, there is hope that once this bill is passed, student journalists will be able to discuss important topics and issues in their community through their writing to their peers, uncensored.