OPS Board opposition letter hinders student journalism rights


Bryce Johnson

Photo of the Nebraska State Capitol in Lincoln, NE, on Jan. 16, 2021.

Bryce Johnson, Political Reporter

On Jan. 29, Dr. Shavonna Holman, the president of the OPS Board of Education, wrote a letter of opposition to the Nebraska Legislature Judiciary Committee regarding LB 88. LB 88 is a bill that was introduced by Senator Morfeld that aims to provide protection of the freedom of speech and freedom of press for student journalists and their media advisers.

This bill would allow student journalists in Nebraska to have the same rights provided in the First Amendment to private media organizations. Currently, if a student writes a story that the school administration does not like, the school can require that story to be taken down. This has been taken by many, including myself, as an infringement on student’s First Amendment rights.

Also, currently, if a school or district in Nebraska disagrees with a student media adviser for supporting a student’s right to free speech, they could be disciplined, suspended or dismissed. Under Section 2, subsection (5) of the bill, a student media adviser cannot be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned or transferred for supporting a student journalist’s right to free speech.

If this bill is passed, it will allow student journalists, like myself, to publish any story (with some exceptions such as threats, invasion of privacy, etc.) in the school newspaper without risk of the school taking it down simply because they disagree with it. This is a bill that needs to be passed in order to make sure that student’s voices are heard, no matter the opinion, throughout the state of Nebraska. As student journalists, we are taught to maintain a standard of professionalism and to follow the principles of ethical journalism. The OPS Board’s opposition to this bill is a clear political move to keep student journalism rights in Nebraska suppressed while they retain complete control over student’s speech. I believe that student journalists in this district are creative and, as the future leaders of society, we deserve the right to speak and write freely in our schools, regardless of what our school’s opinion may be.