Student journalists at a high school in southeast Kansas investigating the credentials of their new principal found that they had been falsified — and the principal resigned. Those teenagers were able to do that work because of a state law enacted in 1992 that offers K-12 students protection, in addition to the First Amendment, from administrative censorship. But not all student journalists in the country have such protection.

Each state looks at protection for student journalists differently, according to the Student Press Law Center, a nonprofit organization that has been the nation’s only legal assistance agency exclusively devoted to educating high school and college journalists about the First Amendment and supporting the student news media to do their work without censorship. SPLC provides free legal advice, information and materials to students and operates a formal Attorney Referral Network of lawyers who will represent student journalists in the country at no cost.

Here’s a map from New Voices USA, a network of state campaigns to pass anti-censorship legislation to grant extra protections to student journalists.


Five states have added protection for college and high students against administrative censorship. They are California, Oregon, North Dakota, Illinois and Maryland.

Seven states provide protection against administrative censorship only for high school students. They are Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington state (which appears on the map as blue because there is also a campaign to extend protections to college students). The District of Columbia has a Board of Education regulation that gives students press freedom.

Ten states have free-expression laws specifically protecting student journalists. Along with Kansas, these are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Oregon. The Indiana Senate just passed legislation very similar to the one in Kansas that is expected to become law there soon.

The rest of the states lack any additional protection, beyond the First Amendment, for student journalists. There are, however campaigns to win protections by rule, regulation or law in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin.