To: Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Hon. David Eby, Hon. George Heyman, Hon. John Horgan

Pass the Student Press Freedom Act and Protect BC Student Journalists

Pass the Student Press Freedom Act and Protect BC Student Journalists

READ the J-Source article about the campaign at: https://j-source.ca/b-c-students-draft-legislation-to-protect-high-school-press-freedom/

In May 2021, The Griffins’ Nest Newspaper was unconstitutionally censored by school administration after reporting on the VSB’s decision-making process and lack of inclusion of students and teachers.

The article focused on the VSB’s lack of transparency and disregard for the input of stakeholders when it comes to how the district operates. The Nest sought to seek student opinion and survey over 100 students across the district, and spoke to numerous teachers, — all anonymously, regarding their true opinions on the education system.

The Nest found that students and teachers are overwhelmingly frustrated and disappointed by the VSB’s lack of consultation, and requested the VSB Communications Dept provide a comment on the story.

The VSB Communications Department, without the knowledge of the student journalists involved, forward the request for comment to school administration and gave them a “heads up”. School administration later blocked the article’s publication, seemingly finding issue with the VSB’s portrayal and the expression of student opinion.

With the help of legal advocates, The Nest fought for our constitutional rights and ultimately published the paper.

The SPFA is Canada’s first student journalism protection legislation, intended to be passed by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to protect freedom of expression and of the press. The bill was written by The Nest's student journalists in response to their experience with censorship, and reviewed for legal accuracy by volunteering lawyers.

To date, the SPFA has been endorsed by the Student Press Law Center, Youth Political Assembly, Canadian University Press, British Columbia Youth Council, and Centre for Free Expression at X (formerly Ryerson) University.

Sign and share this petition to protect students' fundamental rights and call upon the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to enact the SPFA into law.

Why is this important?

The SPFA compliments existing protections found in s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, removing any room for interpretation regarding the extent of student journalists' rights to freedom of expression and of the press.

The apparent school administrative doctrine that students shed their Charter rights upon entering the doors of a public school is one that is both at odds with Canada's Constitution and as a democratic society, we must reject in its entirety.

Oftentimes, student journalists shed light on the specific experiences of their campuses, as well as the pressing issues facing youth. They can report on the state of our education system, bringing a view from the inside. As members of a younger generation, one highly susceptible to misinformation, they can act as the first responders to fake news and falsities spreading in their community.

Student journalists can do all of these things, but they need to freedom to do so, and they need that freedom to be protected.

What happened to The Nest happens to student journalists across the country. Students are denied their rights simply because they are students. That's unacceptable in a country like Canada.

The SPFA needs to pass to ensure no students in the British Columbia school system are denied their fundamental rights and ensure that their voices are heard in our society.