Governor Hogan signs journalism bill


Photo provided by Gary Clites

Governor Hogan signs Senate Bill 764. The new Maryland law provides free speech rights for student journalists and their advisors.

Emma Coleman, Editor-in-Chief

On April 26, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law Senate Bill 764. The bill provides student journalists with the freedom of speech and of the press, allowing them to self-determine what is and is not published in school-sponsored media. Also, student media advisers cannot be punished – dismissed, suspended, disciplined – for permitting students to publish content of their choice. The law takes action Oct. 1 of this year.

Some restrictions still apply. Students cannot publish anything that is libelous or slanderous, constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy, violates federal or state law, violates county board policies, disrupts the orderly operation of a school, or moves students or staff to participate in unlawful acts.

While it is important that students be able to say and publish what they please, no opinion should be coerced upon readers, according to Joe Jira, principal and former newspaper adviser. He said “that responsible journalism stems from creating a balance so that all sides of an issue are examined.”

Jira said, “What I would hope is at Hereford … that it would never get to a point where you’d have an adversarial relationship where the principal would have to cite that bill to stop something from going to press.” He thinks that Hereford already does “an excellent job at balance, at presenting both sides of a controversial issue, and at the end of the day allowing kids to be able to draw their own conclusions.”

So while Hereford publications may not experience any significant changes due to the bill’s signing, Harbinger staff now have the right to publish what it likes, should an infringement on rights ever arise.