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A free student press returns to Vermont

May 26, 2017
Version 3

Gov. Phil Scott took part in a ceremonial bill-signing with aspiring writers and journalists from Vermont’s public schools. The new law protects students in the state’s public schools and colleges from censorship by school officials.

A truly free student press returned to Vermont public schools this week.

Gov. Phil Scott signed an education bill that will prevent principals, superintendents and other school officials from censoring school newspapers for trivial reasons.

Up till now, school officials could prevent student journalists from writing about anything that they deemed inappropriate. School officials have used this power to prevent publication of stories about everything from teen pregnancy to acts of racism.

Now, Vermont stands as the 11th state to enact a New Voices law, aimed to empower students to use their voices as journalists.

Students still face more restraints than professional journalists—stories that would substantially disrupt a school environment are still off limits—but now students can write stories about controversial topics without worrying about them being censored merely because the story are controversial.

Scott met with several aspiring journalists Thursday in Burlington for a ceremonial signing of the law.

Alexandre Silberman, one of two co-editors of the Burlington High School newspaper, The Register, said he appreciates the steps that lawmakers took this year to protect student journalists.

“I’m so glad to be graduating high school knowing that the student journalists who follow in my footsteps will have an environment free of censorship and prior review,” Silberman said. “This New Voices law affirms the importance of a free student press and will effectively protect it.”

Vermont Sen. Jeanette White, a Windham County Democrat, sponsored the bill that grew into the New Voices law.

White and Nancy Olson, director of Vermont’s branch of the Journalism Education Association, had worked to introduce this kind of bill in previous years. This time, she worked with the Student Press Law Center and the national New Voices campaign.

You can read more about the new law at SPLC.org.

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