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Constitution Day

232 years ago, the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia and we celebrate the anniversary on Tuesday, September 17. Before signing, anti-federalists James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton fought for a Bill of Rights. Fearing a monarchy, Americans were given unalienable rights to preserve democracy and freedom.

Every year, the Freedom Forum institute holds a survey about the First Amendment for adult Americans. This year, 64 percent could name at least one freedom and only 4 percent could name freedom of petition, the most forgotten freedom.

Freedom of the press is one that student journalists, journalism advisers and activists hold close to their hearts. Without New Voices, 36 states around the country have school newspapers, yearbooks and broadcast teams that are limited in their reporting. Constitution day reminds them of what their founding fathers wanted them to have. 

Student journalist and New Voices activist from Nebraska, LeAnne Bugay, believes in celebrating Constitution Day and spreading awareness of the First Amendment. “The First Amendment is beyond essential,” Bugay said. “Learning how to be responsible with the power of the First Amendment in a supportive school environment makes us responsible adults in the real world.” 

Constitution Day does not have to be a hard thing to celebrate. Something as simple as a survey to see who on your social media page can name all five freedoms can be very efficient in reminding people what their freedoms are. Last year, the student newspaper at Prosper High School set up a booth for students to stop by during lunches. The students were given sticky notes to write their names and list it under which of the five freedoms means the most to them in their lives. 

The day that our founding fathers signed their names on a document they believed would be the best way to run our country is just as important as any other holiday. It does them no justice if we as Americans do not celebrate the amendments, and especially the first.

The first amendment applies to everyone, not just journalist. It should not be something taken for granted, even though it can be easy to forget how easily these rights can be taken away. Americans should be grateful to live in a country where their voices matter. Spend time on September 17 celebrating what you have because not everyone gets to say they are free.

Haley Stack
New Voices Texas, Organizational Officer

 

Passing The Torch

Although the 86th session of the Texas Legislature did not lead to passage of New Voices legislation,  advocates of student press rights, brought about many firsts through their efforts. For the first time, bills were filed in the House and the Senate.. New Voices advocates met with key lawmakers during a lobby day at the Texas Capitol. Students attracted other scholastic journalists to get involved by leading informational sessions at conventions across the state. And most importantly, New Voices legislation passed out of the House Public Education Committee in a 12-0 vote, garnering bipartisan support. Together, we’ve made more progress toward establishing clear scholastic press protections than Texas has ever seen before.

When the clock ran out for bills to pass out of the Legislature in May, Ultimately, the bills died House Bill  2244 got stuck in the Calendars Committee, which is in charge of scheduling bills for floor action. Senate Bill 514 had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, but the bill died when the committee failed to bring it up for a vote.

Although we didn’t meet our ultimate goal, the progress we made over the last year bodes well for the next legislative session. With thoughtful leadership and continued advocacy we are fully confident that the Texas Legislature will eventually pass New Voices legislation. That leadership needs ambition, vision and drive. They must hold themselves and each other accountable and be able to rally a coalition of advocates across the state. No group of individuals is more capable of embodying and accomplishing these things than New Voices’ incoming board of officers.

In order for New Voices to be successful, its leadership must represent the people its legislation protects. After we graduated from high school, we decided it was time to pass the torch to a new set of leaders who are still enrolled in high school.

In our work with Mylo, David, Haley and Marisa thus far, we are incredibly encouraged by their ideas and passion. They make us excited for the future of the organization, and hopeful that this movement will continue until we ultimately pass a New Voices law in Texas. As they take over, we believe New Voices Texas is in excellent hands.

Bethany Bissell and Neha Madhira

New Voices Texas, 2018-2019