Legislation filed in the Arkansas House on Wednesday seeks to reinstate a requirement public high schools in the state offer a course in journalism.
The bill, filed by state Rep.-elect Julie Mayberry, R-Hensley, would undue rules passed by the Board of Education earlier this year that made offering journalism optional for school districts. Mayberry, who previously served in the Legislature from 2015- 17, helps run The East Ender, a monthly newspaper in Saline County, with her husband, current state Rep. Andy Mayberry. Julie Mayberry will take over her husband's seat in House District 27 on Jan. 14.
Julie Mayberry also filed legislation requiring high schoolers in health classes be trained in how to control bleeding.
Legislation is being filed ahead of the regular session beginning Jan. 14.
On the journalism proposal, House Bill 1015, Mayberry said she and her husband began working on the legislation immediately after lawmakers approved the Board of Education rules in June.
"Just about everybody now thinks they're a journalist now with social media," said Mayberry, who earned her degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College in Boston. "And they're practically right."
HB1015 was filed in the same week that student journalists at Springdale's Har-Ber High School garnered national attention when school administrators attempted to stop the student newspaper from publishing an article questioning the transfer of several student athletes to a rival high school.
The article quoted one athlete who said he decided to transfer to "showcase my talent more," a possible violation of district rules. It was reported Tuesday the Springdale School District, after facing much scrutiny, would permit the articles to be posted online.
"The students [at Har-Ber] have used their journalism background to pull out a good story," Mayberry said Wednesday. "That's what we want to see."
Others have argued that the journalism requirement can be burdensome on smaller, rural school districts.
A spokeswoman with the Department of Education said Wednesday it was too early for the agency to comment on the proposed legislation.
The Board of Education rules were approved by Legislative Council in June, overcoming an effort by several lawmakers, including Andy Mayberry, to hold a separate vote specifically on the provision to make journalism classes optional. The vote to reject a separate vote passed 25-14.
State Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, supported the rule change earlier this year and said on Wednesday while he supported journalism instruction, he was opposed to making it a requirement.
"I am generally not in favor of state mandates on school districts," Ballinger said.
Mayberry's House Bill 1014, to require training on bleeding control, would apply not only to active shooter situations that have prompted the state to look at ways to secure schools, but also to other potentially deadly situations, such as car crashes, Mayberry said.
"That can save a life," she said. "I don't see it being controversial."
Information for this article was contributed by Dave Perozek of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
NW News on 12/06/2018