Kentucky Student Journalists Need New Voices Legislation

Join Kentucky’s youth journalists in recognizing Student Press Freedom Day on February 23rd and supporting the New Voices Legislation.

A dark blue megaphone is in the left corner, with the words "BOLD JOURNALISM, BRAVE ADVOCACY" in orange and blue coming out of it. The image is a logo for Student Press Freedom Day on Feb. 23rd.

This month with the help of Senator Gerald Neal, student journalists spurred the filing of SB 132, The “New Voices Act,” a bill to protect the freedom of school-based reporting. The need for more just, democratic Kentucky schools is especially apparent in a time when the free press in the Commonwealth and the United States is struggling.  

Kentucky has been hit hard by the consolidation, closure, and commercialization of local journalism. However, the genesis of journalism's woes cannot be separated from the weakening of scholastic journalism programs across the state. The programs themselves, which comprise an essential pipeline to sustained, quality coverage that is both informative and transparent, appear to be both underserved and under-examined. None of the sources we investigated—the Kentucky Department of Education, Western Kentucky University’s Office of Student Publications, and the Kentucky Press Association—keeps close track of high school journalism across the state, but anecdotal evidence from students we have surveyed and interviewed suggests that the vast majority of Kentucky public high schools lack any sort of student journalism program at all. Furthermore, established newsrooms are primarily concentrated in large schools with magnet programs, as well as within student bodies from disproportionately higher socioeconomic backgrounds.  

In an era in which education and classroom experiences are plagued by political polarization, resources that provide for and enrich schools’ potential as engines of democracy and student voice hold unique power. Scholastic journalism–alongside the rights and agency of its student writers–is a critical tool in shaping and strengthening the future of the journalism field, as well as in supporting young people to tell the stories from inside their education experience. A lack of student journalism is a lack of an essential feedback loop about what is working or not in Kentucky education. 

In schools without a newspaper altogether, pressing issues can go unacknowledged.

Hayden Watkins, a Rowan County Senior High School junior provided a ready example. “My school's student government tried to amend the school's dress code to include the confederate flag as a hate symbol but was shot down almost immediately by administration because they didn't want to rock the boat. [But] without rocking the boat, several students in my school still feel unwanted and unheard,” he told us.

Student journalism programs are a direct avenue towards ensuring equity is not just articulated, but also implemented. Arnav Dharmagadda, a Russell High School senior, who also has no newspaper in his school explained how the benefits of student journalism transcend the impact on the student journalists themselves. “Student journalism is a highly effective avenue to create accountability for a system that works for all,” he said. 

The New Voices Act effectively promotes scholastic journalism as it protects it. It specifies that student media may be censored only if it is libelous or slanderous, contains an unwarranted invasion of privacy, violates state or federal law, or incites students to violate the law or school policy or disrupt the orderly operation of a school. The bill further protects student media advisers who refuse to censor student journalists.Those worried about the legal implications of a freer student press can take comfort in the evidence. Libel and other content-based lawsuits against student newspapers are extremely rare. This is from data derived from more than 170 years of combined legal history in 14 other states with similar laws.

The bill establishes that the work of student journalists does not reflect the views of a school. Students within a school setting do not and should not have the same rights as experienced professionals because of a school’s goal of being a safe, effective place to learn, and this bill further affirms that.

We know through experimentation with youth-led education research, analysis, storytelling and advocacy that primary stakeholders—students themselves who spend upwards of 35 hours each week observing schools up close—can play a powerful role in holding schools accountable. Robust high school journalism allows for students to examine their education with a critical eye and better supports young people to serve as the current, and not just future, education improvement partners we can and should be. And although most students are not old enough to vote, access to strong journalism programs ensures that we are not too young to have a voice in the democratic process.

Please join Kentucky’s youth journalists in recognizing Student Press Freedom Day on February 23rd and supporting the New Voices Legislation.

Brennan Eberwine is the editor-in-chief of Manual RedEye and a senior at duPont Manual High School.

Cooper Bass is a sophomore at Bullitt East High School and is the content editor and social media director of Livewire.

Ramona Pierce is a senior at Danville Independent High School. She is also an editor of The New Edu and coordinates the Kentucky Student Voice Team’s Press Corps.


Mi tincidunt elit, id quisque ligula ac diam, amet. Vel etiam suspendisse morbi eleifend faucibus eget vestibulum felis. Dictum quis montes, sit sit. Tellus aliquam enim urna, etiam. Mauris posuere vulputate arcu amet, vitae nisi, tellus tincidunt. At feugiat sapien varius id.

Eget quis mi enim, leo lacinia pharetra, semper. Eget in volutpat mollis at volutpat lectus velit, sed auctor. Porttitor fames arcu quis fusce augue enim. Quis at habitant diam at. Suscipit tristique risus, at donec. In turpis vel et quam imperdiet. Ipsum molestie aliquet sodales id est ac volutpat.

Students something somethings...

ondimentum enim dignissim adipiscing faucibus consequat, urna. Viverra purus et erat auctor aliquam. Risus, volutpat vulputate posuere purus sit congue convallis aliquet. Arcu id augue ut feugiat donec porttitor neque. Mauris, neque

Dolor enim eu tortor urna sed duis nulla. Aliquam vestibulum, nulla odio nisl vitae. In aliquet pellente

Elit nisi in eleifend sed nisi. Pulvinar at orci, proin imperdiet commodo consectetur convallis risus. Sed condimentum enim dignissim adipiscing faucibus consequat, urna. Viverra purus et erat auctor aliquam. Risus, volutpat vulputate posuere purus sit congue convallis aliquet. Arcu id augue ut feugiat donec porttitor neque. Mauris, neque ultricies eu vestibulum, bibendum quam lorem id. Dolor lacus, eget nunc lectus in tellus, pharetra, porttitor.

"Ipsum sit mattis nulla quam nulla. Gravida id gravida ac enim mauris id. Non pellentesque congue eget consectetur turpis. Sapien, dictum molestie sem tempor. Diam elit, orci, tincidunt aenean tempus."

Tristique odio senectus nam posuere ornare leo metus, ultricies. Blandit duis ultricies vulputate morbi feugiat cras placerat elit. Aliquam tellus lorem sed ac. Montes, sed mattis pellentesque suscipit accumsan. Cursus viverra aenean magna risus elementum faucibus molestie pellentesque. Arcu ultricies sed mauris vestibulum.


Morbi sed imperdiet in ipsum, adipiscing elit dui lectus. Tellus id scelerisque est ultricies ultricies. Duis est sit sed leo nisl, blandit elit sagittis. Quisque tristique consequat quam sed. Nisl at scelerisque amet nulla purus habitasse.

Nunc sed faucibus bibendum feugiat sed interdum. Ipsum egestas condimentum mi massa. In tincidunt pharetra consectetur sed duis facilisis metus. Etiam egestas in nec sed et. Quis lobortis at sit dictum eget nibh tortor commodo cursus.

Odio felis sagittis, morbi feugiat tortor vitae feugiat fusce aliquet. Nam elementum urna nisi aliquet erat dolor enim. Ornare id morbi eget ipsum. Aliquam senectus neque ut id eget consectetur dictum. Donec posuere pharetra odio consequat scelerisque et, nunc tortor.
Nulla adipiscing erat a erat. Condimentum lorem posuere gravida enim posuere cursus diam.

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Heading 6
This is a block quote

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

This is a link inside of a rich text

  • List item
  • List item
  • List item
  1. List item
  2. List item
  3. List item
Caption goes here
Share this post: