Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Education Committee holds hearings on bills for student press freedom, increased virtual school access

The Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee held hearings on two bills last week- HB 138, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Spencer, R-Wentzville, and HB 441, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Corlew, R-Kansas City.

HB 138 description- This bill changes the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to "The Missouri Course Access Program" (MCAP) and allows any K-12 student to enroll in up to two MCAP courses per year, to be paid by the school district, if the student is a public school student and the course is approved by a school counselor.

The bill requires the State Board of Education to provide an easily accessible link for course vendors on the MCAP website, allows anyone to submit courses for approval, and requires vendors to accept monthly payments for students enrolled in their courses.

HB. 441 description-This bill establishes the "Cronkite New Voices Act" and defines "school sponsored media," "student journalist," and "student media advisor."

The act provides that a student journalist has a right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media. These provisions do not apply to content that is libelous or slanderous; constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy; violates federal or state law; or creates a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act, the violation of school district policy, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school. This bill does not prevent the teaching of professional standards of English and journalism to student journalists by a student media advisor.

The bill requires each school district to adopt a written student freedom of expression policy which must include reasonable provisions for the time, place, and manner of student expression. The policy may include restrictions on speech that may be defined as profane, harassing, threatening, or intimidating. The above provisions apply to public institutions of higher education as well as school districts.

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