New Voices or No Voices

A bill introduced in the Virginia state legislature could finally protect free speech rights for student newspapers.


Langley student with tape covering her mouth exemplifies the silence imposed on censoring student journalists. Passing the New Voices Bill would secure the necessary freedoms that allow journalism to thrive as a source of truth and integrity across the country.

Editorial Board

Langley student with tape covering her mouth exemplifies the silence imposed on censoring student journalists. Passing the New Voices Bill in Virginia would secure the necessary freedoms that allows student newspapers to thrive as a source of truth and integrity both inside and outside of schools.

Getting older leads to more responsibilities and more freedom. Obtaining a driver’s license, having a later curfew: these are all things that come with time and make teenagers feel one step closer to invincibility.  Contrarily, your rights and freedoms as an American do not have an age restriction, they have always belonged to you. What you may not know is that our school system, among thousands of school systems within the state and across the country actually disagree with that notion.

As a place that takes pride in fostering individual creativity, schools constantly encourage students to express themselves, either through formulating clubs or participating in school-affiliated sports. However, Virginia contradicts itself by allowing school administrators to potentially censor journalism classes. While our newsmagazine thus far has not had the administration censor what is produced, the Langley administration can crack down at any time on what they deem acceptable to publish. It is not just our student voices that are at stake; it is our ability to communicate truthfully to our readers.

English class is notorious for teaching students how to write for a rubric. In contrast, Journalism teaches students how to write for an audience, a crowd beyond the eyes of one English teacher for one grade. Through investigating, reporting, and writing in the name of truth, students can use their voice to skillfully write about or call attention to a particular issue pertaining to a place as small as a classroom or as large as the nation.

Journalism has the power to create a platform for the unheard, but suppression is not in the agenda. If the administration decides to exert its power to censor the Saxon Scope, this not only suppresses our voice, but it also is creates an atmosphere of intimidation. And the suppression of the truth that censorship embodies creates inaccuracy and bias in the stories we publish. True journalism pursues the truth, and if journalism students are censored, we become perpetrators of our own demise against the growing lack of authenticity found in the media today.

In 2015, North Dakota passed the New Voices Act, the first piece of legislation since Tinker v. Des Moines to have anti-censorship rulings in favor of student journalists. Written in the law, school districts only have prior restraint on media that is a) libelous or scandalous, b) constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy, c) violates federal or state law, and d) incites a clear and present danger. Nowhere in this law does it say any school administration should have preference in what can and can’t be published in the name of their school.

On January 9th, 2019, the New Voices Bill was introduced in Virginia. Today, January 28th at 4:00, the House Education Subcommittee #1 will have its first meeting regarding the bill. It’s up to us to reach out to our local representatives to get this bill passed and represent what we believe in and uphold our constitutional rights. If this bill doesn’t pass, the administration will run our paper. The Saxon Scope retains the responsibility of representing our school with the upmost integrity, and we cannot effectively do our job if our freedom of speech remains at stake. Journalism was conceived to report the truth. To suppress journalism is to suppress the truth, and we all deserve to know the truth.