Illinois Governor Signs Law Protecting Student Media

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – On Aug. 31, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) signed the College Campus Press Act, which will ensure that all student media at any public college is a forum for public expression by student journalists and editors. The state legislature passed the law last June.

Since the law makes all student publications at public colleges “public forums”, it nullifies the Illinois Hosty v. Carter ruling for public media.

The 2005 ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that college-sponsored student publications are not considered public forums and may be restricted by school administrators just as high school officials can control their campus student media. The decision is still in effect in the rest of the 7th Circuit (Wisconsin and Indiana).

Illinois Sen. Susan Garrett (D-lake Forest), with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), introduced the bill last February in response to the Hosty v. Carter ruling.

Under the law, editors and student reporters are responsible for all decisions regarding content and advertising. State schools will receive immunity from being sued over any content printed in campus media, and media advisers will be protected from termination, discipline or retaliation if they refuse to deny free rights of expression to student journalists or editors. Student journalists may only be punished for material constituting harassment, threats or unconstitutionally protected speech.

  The new law will take effect in January 2008.

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