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Bill stops censorship of college newspapers

The state Senate Education Committee on Thursday (June 21) unanimously approved legislation authored by Assemblyman Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, prohibiting censorship of college student newspapers.

In a June 2005 decision, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court ruled that a college administrator in Illinois could require student editors of a state university’s newspaper to submit articles for prior review before the newspaper would be sent to the printer for publication. On Feb. 21, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the decision.

The case, known as Hosty v. Carter, prompted Christine Helwick, general counsel for the California State University system, to send a memo to presidents at each CSU campus that read, “The [Hosty] case appears to signal that CSU campuses may have more latitude than previously believed to censor the content of subsidized student newspapers.”

Assemblyman Yee’s bill, AB 2581, would ensure such free speech protections for college publications, specifically prohibiting censorship of student newspapers at any UC, CSU, or community college, according to a press release from Yee’s office. The bill would also prohibit any college, university or community college officials from disciplining a student who engages in speech or press activities.

“AB 2581 is essential in order for student newspapers in California to have the free speech protections they deserve,” Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said in the release. “Although we will continue to push for the Supreme Court to validate the rights of college newspapers, in California we are taking the proactive steps to make sure similar censorship does not occur at our colleges and universities.”

AB 2581 must be approved by the full Senate before heading to the Governor’s desk.

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