New voices legislation is advocating for student rights


Neha Madhira

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Neha Madhira, left, and Haley Stack speak at a TED talk on the importance of new voices. The talk was apart of the event TEDWomen in 2018, which highlighted female activists.

Kateri Jaquette, Sports Editor

Currently in the state of Texas, student journalists under the administration of public education are subjected to prior review by their school administration. Prior review allows for the school to censor what students publish, leaving them vulnerable to facing consequences for reporting the truth.

“New voices is a legislative movement that’s aimed at protecting journalists from censorship and protects advisors from being retaliated against,” senior advocate Neha Madhira said.

The staff of the student publication Eagle Nation at Prosper High School were barred from publishing multiple opinion pieces for reporting on topics like their school walkouts, banned books, and the removal of school traditions. Editor-in-Chief of the publication Madhira, and her fellow staff members have become the face of the New Voices movement in Texas.

“Right after we spoke out many people started telling us their stories,” Madhira said. “We wanted to use these testimonies and these stories for something good.”

Attempting to revise the law, students had to prepare for what they were going to face.

“We spent most of the summer, and another six or seven months studying up on all the different cases and the legalities around this entire thing,” Madhira said. “We wanted to make sure that if people tried to attacked us with questions or try to prove us wrong we would know our rights.”

After months of research, conversation, and lobbying the student journalists were able to have Senator Jose Rodriguez from El Paso, file Senate Bill 2225 which is a three part bill that proposes to restore, protect and extend student press rights. In April of 2019, the bill got its first hearing in the upper chamber of the House of Public Education Committee.

“The first time coming into the hearing we obviously didn’t really know what to expect,” Madhira said. “But we knew the representatives, what they stood for, and what we were going to be dealing with.”

Commentary editor of The Dispatch, Jake Brien, became very involved with New Voices legislation this year when the bill first made it to the house in which he attended multiple hearings.

“At the senate there were more rules and less talk,” Brien said. “At the house there was conversation and a lot of back and forth between the representatives during the hearing.”

Hundreds of student journalist and their advisors have become involved in the New Voices movement. Their hope is to ensure the protections of their First Amendment rights to better their communities through honest journalism. Madhira and her staff find passion in reporting and personal rights. “When you use your voice to fight for change or to fight for something you want, your community will result in nothing but better opportunities, more awareness of what’s actually happening and how to take action,” Madhira said.