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Student Press Freedom Bill Advances Out Of Committee

Plainfield High School student journalist Anu Nattam testifies about the censorship imposed by school officials on her publication.

Indiana public school students would have freedom of the press protections under legislation approved by a House committee Thursday.

But the bill is still on shaky ground as principals, superintendents, and school boards oppose it.

Plainfield High School student journalist Anu Nattam’s publication was censored by school officials after a school board member’s family complained about its content – none of which violated traditional media decency guidelines.

She says that shouldn’t happen.

“Our goal is not to invade privacy or cause a disruption in the educational process,” Nattam says. “We only seek to print the truth – even when that truth may make certain individuals uncomfortable.”

The bill would prevent school officials from censoring content or disciplining students because of it with certain exceptions – if, for instance, the content is libelous or incites students to disruption.

But Indiana School Boards Association general counsel Lisa Tanselle says established case law says administrators must have control.

“We are talking about a balancing act. No right is pure,” Tanselle says.

The House Education Committee approved the bill 9-2.

A similar measure passed through the House last year but died in the Senate.

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