Adviser Update Summer 2016 - Page 11

11 to redact their names and the names of their schools) for fear of retaliation from administrators. Still, we ended up with a small but chilling number of stories to share with legislators about the realities of censorship in Maryland public schools. Student newspapers across the state wrote opinion pieces in support of the bill. Those pieces were shared with legislators along with other press we received. At every step of the process from the Senate committee to the governor signing the bill, we asked teachers to email their legislators. They did, as did their students and many of the student’s parents. One enterprising teacher shared the legislation with the Montgomery County Association of PTA’s. The group, representing parents in the largest school system in the state, voted to support New Voices. One thing I learned about the process of passing a bill was that getting your bill through its assigned committees is the key to gaining passage on the floor of the legislature. This year, over 1,500 bills were introduced in the Maryland State Legislature. All of them were taken up in the various committees. Generally, unless a bill is particularly contentious, if it passes committee, members likely will support it on the floor. Due to an injury, I couldn’t be there the day our bill went before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. Senator Raskin, Frank LoMonte and Rebecca Snyder spoke effectively for the bill. It made it out of committee with only minor amendments and was passed on the Senate floor 37-9. We had less than 24 hours notice of the hearing in the House Appropriations Committee (and, no, I have no idea why we were before Appropriations). Frank LoMonte was out of town working in support of a bill in another state. Senator Raskin spoke passionately in support of the bill, and Rebecca Snyder and I were able to give testimony. The only real opposition to New Voices arose in that hearing when a lobbyist for the county boards of education in the state spoke in opposition to the bill. While he was against its passage entirely, his primary opposition to the law was that it would prevent administrators from censoring material that was, “lewd, vulgar or obscene.” After amending the bill to include those prohibitions, the bill passed committee and was sent to the House floor where it passed 129-8. It was a great honor to represent all those who had worked for the passage of the bill at the signing by the governor. Starting Oct. 1, 2016, the free press rights of students in Maryland will be protected for the first time in nearly 30 years. The bill also protects students from prior restraint and protects both students and teachers from retaliation over the journalism they create. It Senate also protects President the right of Mike Miller, administrators Governor Larry Hogan and to censor Speaker of the House Michael the student Busch signing press, but for the bill. Photo the first time by Robin Clites. in our state, delineates a list of journalistically sound reasons why they may do so. What did we learn in the process of passing New Voices Maryland? • Passing a bill starts with one person sending an email or making a call. • The Student Press Law Center will provide very committed support for your bill. • Finding a strong original sponsor is key. Read the bios of your state’s legislators to find the right one. • Reach out to the professional press associations in your area for support and help. • Contact the professional press to gather support. • Enlist the teachers, students and parents in your state to work in support of the bill and keep them constantly updated. Perhaps the most important outcome of the passage of the student free press bill in Maryland is that it will help keep the New Voices movement growing and spreading to other states. In a few years, maybe all students will go to schools w here their First Amendment rights are respected and encouraged.