Posts made in November 9th, 2011

A lesson for us all in Washington victory over policy change, and a call to action

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by John Bowen and Kathy Schrier

Principals will not have a chance to prior review Seattle School District journalism students because the school board recently withdrew its proposed and controversial policy change.

“As a former journalism teacher, it is important for me — as I know it is for our Board — that we uphold our practice of trusting our teachers to educate our students on the rights and responsibilities that come with freedom of expression and a free press,” Interim Superintendent of Schools, Susan Enfield, a former journalism teacher and adviser,  said in a press release.

Supporters of the existing free expression policy will now have a year to convince the Seattle School District board to keep its hands off and continue to encourage students to make final decisions and have responsibility for content.

During the first week of November as part of a system-wide policy overhaul, school officials announced they would seek to change a 2o-year policy of allowing students to make final decisions of content without prior review. The Washington State School Directors Association had recommended the new policy.

Washington students, advisers, media groups and citizens mounted a public and active four-day campaign reporting about and speaking against the policy change.

The press release indicated the school district would revisit the issue in 2012 to see how a policy change might fit with community values.

Students and supporters met Nov. 8 to celebrate and plan

Student journalists from five of Seattle’s high schools (Ballard, Garfield, Nathan Hale, Roosevelt and West Seattle) met Nov. 8 in the Nathan Hale journalism room to debrief following a promise by Seattle interim Superintendent Susan Enfield to leave unchanged the district’s current student press rights policy. The meeting followed a four-day, whirlwind campaign to thwart the passage of Policy 3220, a controversial, restrictive student press policy.

The students came together to celebrate the immediate victory, as well as to talk about how they must work together to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. The discussion focused on how the district policy-making process appears to be badly flawed, especially since some school board members seem to be ready to approve policies they haven’t even read.

Students plan to create a Facebook page and a website to keep in touch with each other, as well as to co-produce an article and possible insert about procedures used to decide policies in their school district. Students hope to run the piece in all their papers at about the same time. A coalition of Seattle student journalists is now in the works with plans to meet regularly.

Applauded for their efforts in fighting back the passage of Policy 3220 were Katie Kennedy and Kate Clark, Ballard High School editors, who went on the attack with community flyers, letters to school board members and on-air interviews with local talk radio hosts.  The group also applauded NPR reporter Phyllis Fletcher, KPLU-FM Seattle (who was in the room covering the meeting), for first discovering the proposed policy change and alerting Mike Hiestand of the Student Press Law Center, who in turn contacted the Washington Journalism Education Association.

Fletcher shared how she discovered the information on the policy. She explained how, as part of  her regular preparation for covering upcoming school board meetings, she looks at the agenda and tries to become familiar with the items for consideration. A red flag went up when she discovered the language in Policy 3220 under consideration.

Clearly, her quick action made all the difference in preventing its passage.

Garfield High School adviser Casey Henry shared with the group a late afternoon message to Seattle journalism advisers from Susan Enfield, in which she apologized for the “consternation” caused by the whole ordeal and promised to make sure any future revisions to the scholastic press policy in Seattle  will include input from media advisers.

Students in the room added  they should be included, as well, and intend to make that known to the superintendent and the board.

This was a close call for student journalists in Seattle Schools, with lessons to be learned about staying vigilant. In fact, the students discussed creating a session for the 2012 National JEA/NSPA Spring Convention in Seattle, a case study on four frantic days for student journalists and their supporters in Seattle that fortunately ended positively.

Coverage from Seattle-area media

Announcing the proposed change
• Stop the presses, let the principal check them first
http://www.kuow.org/program.php?id=25002
• Seattle school board moves to censor student newspapers
http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/11/seattle_school_district_moves.php
• Proposed Seattle school-newspaper policy raises censorship concerns http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016707090_censorship07m.html
• Students say Seattle school board threatens censorship
http://www.mapleleaflife.com/2011/11/05/students-say-seattle-school-board-threatens-censorship/

Announcing the withdrawal of the proposed changes
• Seattle public schools beats hasty retreat
http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2011/11/07/seattle-school-district-beats-hasty-retreat/
• Students say school board ‘setting the stage for censorship’
http://www.myballard.com/2011/11/04/students-say-school-board-setting-the-stage-for-censorship/
• Proposed ‘censorship’ policy for school newspaper withdrawn (Ballard High School)
http://www.myballard.com/2011/11/07/censorship-policy-proposal-for-school-newspapers-withdrawn/
• Ballard High newspaper editor-in-chief Kate Clark on her censorship fight with the Seattle school board
http://www.mynorthwest.com/?nid=577&a=35563
• School board withdraws controversial proposal: free speech maintained for students
http://my.hsj.org/Schools/Newspaper/tabid/100/newspaperid/4554/view/frontpage/Default.aspx
• Seattle public schools withdraws controversial student newspaper oversight proposal
http://today.seattletimes.com/2011/11/seattle-public-schools-withdraws-controversial-student-newspaper-oversight-proposal/
• Schools back off on policing student papers
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016713513_censorship08m.html
• KUOW-FM late afternoon story/interview with Ballard editors Kate and Katie
http://www.kuow.org/mp3high/m3u/News/20111108_PF_freepress.m3u
• The Stranger
http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/news-clash/Content?oid=10654053 

Other coverage
• How Seattle journalist got school censorship scoop
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/als-morning-meeting/152652/how-seattle-journalist-got-school-censorship-scoop/
• Seattle school board pulls controversial publications proposal, will revisit in 2012
http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=2292
• Seattle School District seeks to remove forum policy for prior review
http://www.jeasprc.org/?p=4150
• Seattle school board pulls controversial publications proposal, will revisit in 2012
http://www.jeasprc.org/?p=4150

 

 

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