Student Journalists Start School Year with First Amendment Protections

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A new law in North Dakota is granting student journalists more free speech protection.

KVRR’s Sarah Brechbill tells us what this new law means for student journalists who are heading back to school…and ready to investigate.

Don’t let the student part fool you…these journalists at NDSU’s student newspaper are digging even deeper for their stories…and that’s because they have the law behind them.

“It was proved unanimously by the North Dakota legislature which is kind of amazing considering they are republicans and it was a situation observed fairly closely on a national level,” says Ross Collins, Professor of Communications at NDSU,

Taking effect earlier this month, the new law will grant free speech protection to all high school and college journalists at any public institution.

It’s something that hasn’t always been the case.

“We did have one time where our papers were pulled from the racks, on the front page I think it had to do with alcohol or something but it was a time when there were a lot of tours coming through campus and they were afraid that students or parents would look at the racks and be afraid to send their kids to NDSU,” says Editor and Chief of The Spectrum, Erica Nitschke.

“North Dakota is the 9th state to adopt the measure. Allowing students here at the spectrum to publish what they want the school to know.”

For Professor Collins, he’s seen the implications that censorship has had on his students.

“People say why should I try to cover in any kind of depth when it’s just going to be censored,” says Collins. 

“Just knowing that we have some sort of protection might hopefully inspire us to dig a little deeper,” says Nitschke.

And hopefully not just in North Dakota…

“I think you’ll see a lot of state legislatures facing similar bills, similar possibilities based on the success in North Dakota.”

But in the meantime, students here at the Spectrum are beginning their school year feeling a little more fearless.

Sarah Brechbill KVRR News.

Private schools are not included under the new law.