The New Voices Maryland Act, 2016 Senate Bill 764, signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan in April 2016, protects the free press rights of students in Maryland public secondary schools and colleges while also clarifying when administrators can reasonably control the content of the scholastic journalism distributed within their schools. This fact sheet covers the basic elements of the law, which goes into effect October 1, 2016, as they apply to Maryland public secondary schools.
The New Voices Maryland Act states that:
- Student journalists are responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature and advertising content of school sponsored media.
- Student journalists may exercise freedom of speech and freedom of the press in school sponsored media.
- Except in situations indicated below, a county board may not exercise prior restraint of any school sponsored media.
- The public school will have the burden of proving justification without undue delay before an action is taken to censor the student press.
- A student journalist may not be disciplined for acting in accordance with the act.
- A student media adviser may not be dismissed, suspended, disciplined, reassigned, transferred or otherwise retaliated against for acting to protect the rights of a student journalist or refusing to infringe on conduct by students that is protected under the act, the First Amendment of the Constitution, or Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.
- Student media advisers may not use their position to influence a student journalist to promote an official position of a county board or public school.
- Each county board shall adopt a written policy concerning the provisions of the act.
The New Voices Maryland Act does not protect student speech which:
- Is libelous or slanderous.
- Constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
- Violates federal or state law.
- Incites students to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act.
- Incites students to violate county school board policies.
- Incites students to create a material or substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.
County written policies developed regarding this act may include limitation of language that:
- May be profane, vulgar, lewd or obscene.
- Has the intent to harass, threaten or intimidate.
(Prepared and disseminated by the Maryland-DC Scholastic Press Association)