A bipartisan bill that would give North Dakota student journalists more freedom to exercise their rights to free speech should be approved by the North Dakota House. It is sound legislation that conforms to new latitude afforded student journalists in U.S. Supreme Court rulings over the past few decades. If passed, North Dakota would join several other states that allow high school and college journalists a nearly full measure of the free speech rights enjoyed by professional journalists.

The New Voices Act has the support of the North Dakota Newspaper Association, the Journalism Education Association, and several individual newspapers and other media outlets. Most public school journalism teachers and advisers to student newspapers like the legislation.

It is especially important for student journalists to learn the craft without burdensome constraints. The best student newspapers are free to pursue journalism that informs, inspires and sometimes digs deep into matters that might embarrass a particular school. Done in the framework of mentoring by a good teacher/adviser, young journalists not only learn but also develop a broader understanding of the impacts of good reporting. It’s the road to maturity and responsibility. It’s education at its best.

House Bill 1471 is grinding through the legislative process. In effect, the bill fixes what prime sponsor Rep. Alex Looysen, R-Jamestown, described as “somewhat of an injustice in student journalism.” That fix includes expanding student free speech rights in a way that enhances civic education. The legislation deserves quick approval.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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