by Nicholas Shepard – Web Editor
A new bill concerning our journalistic rights and continued excellence in the Falcon Flyer, WA Senate Bill 5604, is designed to protect and expand on the rights of school newspapers throughout the state. The bill was introduced by Democratic Floor Leader Senator Marko Liias of the 21rd legislative district on January 26, 2015 – yes, almost two years ago – and still, regardless of the benefits the bill would provide if signed into law, has stalled yet again.
The bill seeks to increase the power – but with it, the responsibility – of the students in charge of the paper. Under 5604, officials are permitted only to prohibit media that is considered libel or slander, as defined by the bill; an unwarranted invasion of privacy; obscene or indecent as defined by the federal communications act; or incites students to commit unlawful acts, violate school regulations, or cause material or substantial disruption of the operation of the school.
Political expression of students in their school papers is also clearly defined as not a use of public funds for political interests, in the bill, and any student or their parents can file complaints due to perceived violation of the aforementioned rights.
While 5604 did reach a vote and pass with a majority in the Washington State Senate on February 20, 2015, less than a month after introduction, but stalled at the caucus stage after a hearing before the House Education Committee. It has been repeatedly re-introduced and retained by resolution but so far hasn’t made significant progress.