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What, students have rights? Since 1943
(West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette)

Posted by on Nov 1, 2017 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Quick Tip27: Student First Amendment rights

by Jan Ewell
Before the Barnette decision, when students came into conflict with public schools, the courts decided their cases—often against the students—without mentioning students’ right. They considered if the punishment was excessive (beating with a rawhide strap was okay in 1859). They also debated if it was the parents’ right or the schools’ right to discipline the students. The First Amendment was never mentioned.

Gathie and Marie Barnett* were attending Slip Hill Grade School in Charleston, West Virginia, when America entered World War II in December, 1941. The school district installed flags in classrooms (replacing pictures of flags) and required all students to salute the flag. The West Virginia State Board of Education passed rules in January 1942 requiring the flag salute and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which Congress would formally adopt June, 1942.

The Barnett family, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, felt the practice of saluting the flag was a form of idolatry and would be a violation of their religion. As Gathie said some 60 years after the case, “We were taught that bowing down to the flag, saluting it, was like a bowing down and giving reverence to it—it was like an idol. So we believe definitely not to worship idols.”

If there is a fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official high or petty shall prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by work or acts their faith therein.”––Justice Robert H. Jackson

The Supreme Court released its decision in the students’ favor on Flag Day, June 14, 1943.

The decision: Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote these memorable words in favor of students’ rights: “If there is a fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official high or petty shall prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by work or acts their faith therein.”

Though the Supreme Court did not specifically address student press rights until 1988, the Barnette case is essential to student journalists. It limits the government’s ability to restrict religion, the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. It found public schools are the government. It established that students as young as elementary school are protected by the First Amendment .

Justice Jackson wrote, “That we are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.

*A court clerk misspelled their name as Barnette

Resources:

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

West Virginia State Board of Ed. v. Barnette

Related issues and cases:

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Decision protects students’ rights, since 1943 QT 63

Posted by on Apr 29, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Quick Hits: Student First Amendment Rights

What, students have rights? Not until 1943 (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette)

Before the Barnette decision, when students came into conflict with public schools, the courts decided their cases—often against the students—without mentioning students’ right. They considered if the punishment was excessive. (Beating with a rawhide strap was okay in 1859.) They also debated if it was the parents’ right or the schools’ right to discipline the students.

The First Amendment was never mentioned.

Gathie and Marie Barnett* were attending Slip Hill Grade School in Charleston, West Virginia when America entered World War II in December, 1941. The school district installed flags in classrooms (replacing pictures of flags) and required all students to salute the flag. The West Virginia State Board of Education passed rules in January, 1942 requiring the flag salute and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, which Congress would formally adopt in June, 1942.

The Barnett family, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, felt saluting the flag was a form of idolatry and a violation of their religion. As Gathie said some 60 years after the case, “We were taught that bowing down to the flag, saluting it, was like a bowing down and giving reverence to it—it was like an idol. So we believe definitely not to worship idols.”

The Supreme Court released its decision in the students’ favor on Flag Day, June 14, 1943.

Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote these memorable words in favor of students’ rights: If there is a fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official high or petty shall prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by work or acts their faith therein.”

Though the Supreme Court did not specifically address student press rights until 1988, the Barnette case is essential to student journalists. It restrains public schools from restricting students’ religious rights, the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. It established that students as young as elementary school are protected by the First Amendment.

Justice Jackson wrote, “That we are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.

*A court clerk misspelled their name as Barnette

Resources:

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/319/624.html

https://www.oyez.org/cases/1940-1955/319us624

http://www.splc.org/article/2000/12/west-virginia-state-board-of-ed-v-barnette

Related issues and cases: http://jeasprc.org//?s=barnette&x=0&y=0

 

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Quick Tips index

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Blog, Featured, Law and Ethics, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

A summary of SPRC

Forum status of student media
• If you’re developing a new policy, the Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends using language something like this:

[Name of publication] is a designated public forum for student expression. Student editors make all content decisions without prior review from school officials.

Prior review v. prior restraint
In brief, the Journalism Education Association has found prior review has no educational value. Instead, JEA believes it is simply the first step toward censorship and fake news. Prior review also contributes to self-censorship and lack of trust between students, advisers and administrators. Prior review conflicts with JEA’s adviser code of ethics.

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Editorial policies are the foundations for your journalism program. Often short, these statements address forum status, who makes final decisions of content and prior review.

Student media policy may be the most important decision you make
Students should understand while they can and should adopt best legal practices and ethical guidelines for their publication, the school district’s or school board’s media policy (if one exists) could impact the legal and ethical decisions of student editors.

What do you do in the event of student faculty death?
It’s important to have a guideline in place before a student or staff member dies. Journalists should report a student or staff death in an objective, consistent manner that has been decided when the staff manual is being revised. Choosing what to publish at the time of any tragedy is not wise and can cause staffs to make choices that create problems in the future.

Balance and objectivity are key to reporting
Balance and objectivity don’t mean isolation and a lack of care about people and their stories.

They do mean trying to report all points of view as best you can and providing background and context for the story.

Free press –– why students should make all decisions of content
For students to prepare themselves for their roles in a democracy, they must be able to practice guarantees of the First Amendment, thus knowing they can make a difference.

Avoid senior quotes; give them to senior class for publishing
The question of using senior quotes in student media came up recently on JEA’s listserv. The Scholastic Press Rights committee would urge schools not to run them, but turn them over too the senior class as part of its responsibility.

Should student media publish senior superlatives?
Publishing senior superlatives, if seniors decide they are worthwhile at all, is one of those “traditions” best moved from student media to those who most clearly benefit – the senior class.

So your student media want to do senior wills?
Because senior wills have minimal journalistic value and great potential for damage, they should not be used in school publications.

The issues with April Fools coverage
April Fool’s issues are fake news and can damage student media’s credibility.

Yes, some find them acceptable, but their negatives far outweigh their positives. The ultimate question is are they worth the risks?

Allowing sources to preview content is ethically questionable
The newest reporter on staff chooses to cover the story about the Science Department’s new policy on studying animal life. To do so, she must interview the head about a new policy on studying animal life. It’s fairly controversial because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is strongly opposed to dissection and the new curriculum for advanced biology includes that.

What to do if sources, including the expert, want to see the story ahead of time?

Takedown requests: When the right to preserve history conflicts with the desire to forget it
As more student newspapers move to digital platforms, editors and advisers are facing a new and insidious form of post-publication censorship: takedown requests.

The requests usually go something like this: “I was a student at [fill in name] high school [fill in number] years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”

Publishing memes also means knowing copyright rules
Entertainment. Political statements. A way to comment on issues, events, people

And, if not done correctly, says Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, a way to violate the owner’s copyright. A violation several owners pursued.

Who should be on student media editorial boards, make decisions?
Because student media are productions of student work, only students should be on editorial boards of student media. That would include the general manager and producers of broadcast media.

The importance of staff editorials
Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Covering controversy
Although some administrators would like for students to only publish “positive” stories, a journalist’s job is to watch and report on the school. This may involve students including stories that might make the school “look bad.”

Disturbing images: public’s right to know v. invasion of privacy
A 9-year-old girl, burning from napalm, runs naked down a Vietnam road. A vulture watches a Sudanese child, emaciated from famine, crawl across the ground. Two yellow-clad health workers carry a limp 8-year-old boy who might be infected with Ebola to a treatment facility.

Determine who owns student work before publication begins
Absent a written agreement indicating otherwise, student journalists own the copyright to the works they create. Each media outlet should ensure it has clear policies in place for staff members and the publication that spell out ownership and the right of the publication to use student work

The role of the adviser is multifold, but ethically, practically not a doer
The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers.

That role means letting students make all decisions including content, context and grammar.

How can my school get involved in the New Voices campaign?
Almost a quarter of all states have now passed legislation protecting voice in student media, and instilling the virtues of the First Amendment as state statute for student media. North Dakota’s success in 2015 seemed to spark the latest fire that has seen legislative recognition of student speech in Illinois, Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Empowering student decision-making
The role of the adviser in student-run media incorporates teacher, coach, counselor, listener and devil’s advocate but not doer. We like the JEA Adviser Code of Ethics as guides for advisers

Responsibility in scholastic media starts with ethics, accuracy, complete story
Administrators may want student media that depicts the school in a positive light, that promotes good news and overlooks the negative.

Is this responsible journalism?

Advisers may want student media that reflects students’ technical proficiency such as mechanics, grammar and style. Little else matters.

Is this responsible journalism?

Decision-making for most student broadcasts protected same as print, online
As more schools expand their journalism programs to include broadcast and radio, it should be clear how Tinker and Hazelwood positively or negatively affect broadcast programs

The answer is: it depends.

If they go out over the broadcast airways, Federal Communications Commission regulations apply.

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum
Forum concept reinforced by Dean v. Utica Community schools decision

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?
JEA historically has opposed prior review of student media by school officials.

That opposition continues.

Prior review leads only to control, active censorship and iis the first step toward the spread of fake news and less than complete disinformation.

What, students have rights?  Since 1943
Before the Barnette decision,when students came into conflict with public schools, the courts decided their cases—often against the students—without mentioning students’ right. They considered if the punishment was excessive (beating with a rawhide strap was okay in 1859). They also debated if it was the parents’ right or the schools’ right to discipline the students. The First Amendment was never mentioned.

Journalism integrity guides student media
As scholastic media advisers and students develop policies and guidelines to guide them with journalism standards, they should note these words: The only thing students have to lose as journalists is their credibility.

Ethical guidelines for monitoring yearbook coverage
Arguably, the two biggest complaints most yearbook staffs hear are that a wide cross section of the school is not covered adequately, and quotes are not represented accurately. These are tough criticisms to hear, but staffs must consider the potential criticism while they create the book.

Equipment purchase does not men content control
It has long been understood that school purchase of equipment or provision of a room that is not the only factor in who controls the content.

There other factors, including a guiding court decision.

Ethical photo editing, visuals
Student media should avoid electronic manipulation that alters the truth of a photograph unless it is used as art. In that case it should be clearly labeled as a photo illustration.

Academic dishonesty lessens media effectiveness
Dishonesty compromises the integrity and credibility of the student publication. The editorial board and/or adviser should address any instance of academic misconduct immediately

Social media that works in high school classrooms
Social media has had such a profound effect on journalism that it’s sometimes hard to remember how traditional news functioned before it. Reading this 2009 MediaShift article is a powerful reminder that Twitter wasn’t always the source of breaking news. In fact, as author Julie Posetti wrote just eight years ago, “Some employers are either so afraid of the platform or so disdainful about its journalistic potential that they’ve tried to bar their reporters from even accessing Twitter in the workplace.”

Handling online comments
Deciding whether to accept online comments can be a tough decision they can carry a lot of baggage. How to review and verify them? How does refusing to run them affect your forum status?

And that’s only the first decision.

When sources don’t respond
The publication staff will provide every reasonable opportunity for sources to respond to a request for an interview. Students must first attempt to contact the source in person or through an administrative assistant. If the person is not available, they should attempt calling and leaving a message with a request for an in-person interview. If, after 24 hours, the source does not respond to the telephone call, staffers should send an email requesting an in-person interview with a clear deadline by which the staffer will include the line “the source did not respond to an interview request.”

The perks of being a wallflower: How a school district escaped a lawsuit by fostering an independent student press
Because Lexington High School students made all the editorial, business and staffing decisions for both the LHS Yearbook and the school paper, a suit against the district failed. The school’s superintendent, principal, the two publication advisers and the five school members of the school committee escaped unharmed from the suit that alleged they were violating the First and Fourteenth amendments when the school publications refused two ads.

Choosing topics for editorials
The best and most effective staff editorials are those that tackle an important topic and then give audiences a reason and a way to address it.

The importance of staff edits: critical thinking, leadership
Student editors are busy. In addition to leading their staffs, making publication decisions and helping reporters, they are likely also still reporting and creating their own news content — not to mention carrying a full academic high school load.

Given all of these responsibilities, it’s easy to see why writing an unsigned staff editorial might seem a lower priority than getting the next edition to print or finishing that great feature on the new student body president.

What is the process if someone wants to submit a guest commentary
Accepting guest commentaries, offered randomly, reinforces student media’s role as a public forum for student expression.

Letters or commentary can enhance public forum role
Publishing letters to the editor is another way of fulfilling student media’s forum obligations to engage audiences through journalistic responsibility.

That said, students should establish clear criteria for identifying the authors, receiving and verifying the information. Such viewpoint neutral guidelines do not violate the author’s free expression rights.

The process of deciding staff editorials
Keys to effective editorials include focused positions, credible sources and meaningful topics. If the topic is focused on issues and problems, strong editorials include a call to action or possible solutions.

“I wrote that just to get a grade:” Students should write what they believe
To ensure credibility, students should only write opinion stories that represent their beliefs. If, during the research phase, the student changes his or her mind, then the story should be reassigned or the content of the story be altered to reflect the change in view.

Interviewing ‘people on the street’
Four categories of sources exist: experts, authorities, knowledgeable and reactors (sometimes called bozos). The first three should be credible. The last not so much.

Why ask “what do you think about the tax levy?” if the person has no knowledge at all?

Students should ask permission to record before interviews begin and ethical reminders about interviewing
One of those areas easily overlooked is asking for permission to record interviews. Ethically — and in some states legally — students should always ask permission to record an interview.

Make it matter: Scholastic journalism must do more than give facts
How can student journalists keep their publications relevant when information spreads faster than they can report it?

Professional journalists have struggled with this problem for years. Before the advent of the internet and social media, news producers — whether newspaper, radio or broadcast — were citizens’ primary source of information. News consumers found out about terrorist attacks and new government policies when they opened the morning paper or turned on the evening news

Make it matter: Verification essential as journalists seek truth
One key component of every journalist’s ethical code is truth. Given that Oxford Dictionaries named “post-truth” their 2016 word of the year and the president has called venerable traditional news sources “fake news,” getting the facts right is more crucial than ever.

Verifying information is an essential part of the reporting process.

Respecting privacy and public space  important for photographers
Student journalists should never invade the privacy of others while accessing information or photos for a story.

However. it is their journalistic duty to know what constitutes invasion of privacy or what spaces they are legally allowed to access and what spaces they are not legally allowed to access.

Seeking visual truth is just as important as written truth
A reporter working on a story pauses from her transcription. “Hm,” she thinks. “This is a good quote, but my source could have said it so much better. I’ll just change it around and add a bit …”

By this point, responsible student journalists and their advisers are horrified. Of course you can’t change a source’s quote! Our job is to seek truth and report it, not to create fiction.

Consider emotional impact as well as news values when choosing images
When the editors of the Panther Prowler, the student-run school newspaper for Newbury Park High School, decided to write a feature article about teenagers having sex in 2015, they knew it was going to be controversial. The controversy wasn’t just about the content of the article, however — it was also about the image they paired with it, which appeared on the cover of their special edition magazine.

Since the article’s focus was the impact of limited sex education in and out of the classroom, the editors decided to use an iconic sex ed image: a condom on a banana.

Keeping ads and content separate
Student journalists should maintain a wall between promotional/paid content and journalistic content.

That historical wall should remain intact to help reassure audiences the content they receive is as thorough and complete as possible.

As Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say in The Elements of Journalism, journalists’ first loyalty is to the truth while maintaining an independence from those they report.

Handling controversial ads/content
Student media should not discriminate against advertising based on students’ personal beliefs.

For example, students should attempt to include advertisers from multiple perspectives. According to the federal court decision in Yeo v. Lexington, student editors have the right to reject advertisements and school administrators are not legally responsible for advertising decisions students make.

Handling sponsored content, native ads
Although it is quite possible scholastic media will never face making a decision to run material known as sponsored content or native ads, students and advisers should prepare guidelines just in case.

Sponsored content and native advertising, two media terms for paid materials, are becoming a fact of life for media and consumers. That said, student media, when faced with publishing them, should act carefully and with the best interests of the audience/consumer first.

Ad placement 
Newspapers used to keep in-depth, front page and opinion pages completely separated from advertising.

The thinking was the advertising and promotion of products should not appear to influence a newspaper’s editorial choices. They wanted to keep their most important pages dedicated to the content they deemed most important.

Political ads: Who can place an advertisement
Students make all content decisions, including those related to advertising, and maintain the right to reject any ads.

Student media do not necessarily endorse the products or services offered in advertisements. Students should strive to retain as much control of funds or services obtained from the sale of advertising, subscriptions or other student fundraisers as possible. All businesses should have a street address

Accepting ads from competing organizations
Students who sell ads sometimes hesitate to solicit advertising from competing companies. They sometimes have a loyalty to one of their clients or they believe their clients will be frustrated if their competitor is also advertising in the same publication.

This is a good problem to have. Too many advertisers want to support your publication, and you should encourage a forum for advertising that is as robust as your editorial content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free speech?
Protests and the national anthem: FSW lesson

Posted by on Oct 20, 2016 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

freespeechweek_logo_mainTitle

Analyzing and creating meaningful discussion about free speech issues over protests during the national anthem

Description

Discussion on whether refusing to stand during the national anthem is an acceptable and effective form of protest have grown in recent months. This lesson enables students an opportunity to research and clarify their views as they share them with others.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze legal and ethical aspects of the issue.
  • Students will share their findings.
  • Students will discuss what they find.
  • Students will report their position on the issue using information gathered from research and discussions.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

Length

60 minutes for two days

Materials / resources

Access to internet resources on the issues of standing for the Pledge of Allegiance by citizens in and outside schools.Foundations_main

Access to the US Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.

Background on this issue:
The teacher would share these quotes introduce the assignment and to background the issue.

From Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin:“I think it’s disgusting, frankly, I can appreciate the fact that people have freedom of speech, people can stand for, figuratively and literally, things that they choose to, but to use an opportunity to denigrate our nation’s flag — it’s not the flag and it’s not the national anthem itself, what it represents is the sacrifice of one and a half million Americans who died.”

http://mycn2.com/politics/bevin-calls-athlete-protests-during-national-anthem-disgusting

From the court decision: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

“We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”

Lesson step-by-step

Step 1 — introduction to the assignment and homework at the end of the session the day before (10 minutes)

The teacher should ask how many students are aware of the varied protests, in and outside of schools, against standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher would point out the introductory quotes as representative of the sides on this issue.

The class would discuss pros and cons of the issue before the teacher introduces the assignment: researching current events on the issue, examining legal and ethical positions on the issue and preparing a personal position statement either as a letter to the editor to local or national media or in a personal blog.

Stress that students can begin information gathering at home using live sources as well as digital ones.

Day 1 –

Step 2 — Research (15 minutes)

The teacher will remind students of the assignment and give them 15 minutes to add to and organize information they gathered the night before. Students should also begin to formulate a statement of personal position on the issue. Tell them they will be expected to discuss possible positions and arguments during the second 35 minutes.

Step 3 — Discussion (35 minutes)

Ask students to share information they gathered with others in the class. They could have made pro-con lists based on information they gathered and shared.

Then, students could use of PowerPoint, whiteboard or Google Docs to list possible positions and/or questions they might have about the issue. Such lists should be available for student use after class by them copying the lists and positions or having access to the Google Doc.

Focus during the discussion should be to verify information for possible positions, to clarify issues involved, to develop personal positions and support for them. Students should prepare annotated bibliographies for sources they used as a way for all to examine credibility and reliability.

Step 4 — Clarify assignment (10 minutes)

Reiterate the details and purpose of the assignment and ask students to have a draft of the statement of position or blog post for the next day’s class.

Day 2 –

Step 5 — Group coaching and editing (40 minutes)

Students should break into groups of three for peer coaching and position revision. The teacher can move from group to ask questions and offer suggestions as asked. The teacher should not edit student work but encourage peer coaching and editing. Final coaching and editing should enable all student work to be sent to or posted on designated media.

Step 6 — Final discussion and statement emailing or posting (10 minutes)

Conclude the assignment with final discussion and coaching. Assist students as necessary in the mailing and posting of their statement of position.

Step 7 — Assessment (10 minutes)

Have students discuss what they did, how others might react to their statements as well as what they learned about the issue and about issues surrounding it. They should also discuss how they might handle any responses they receive.

Differentiation

Option 1 – Additional media possibilities include broadcast personal statements, video statements or podcasts. Additional lessons could involve pro-con panel discussions or community forums to involve larger groups.

Option 2 – The teacher could organize the class to have a debate whether this form of speech should be allow in society and as a part of school activities. Discussion of the issue and positions on it could take place before the debate. After the debate, students could write a reflection on their views of the issue before and after the debate.

Extension

You could also work with students to assist them in using social media to discuss their experience and what they learned. Another lesson could focus on student reaction to and comment on this comment from Bevin: “If you’re a superintendent, if you’re a principal, if you’re a high school coach, step up, set an example,” Bevin said. “For us to allow everybody to be free range chickens, to not encourage them to know what they are doing and what the impact is and what the denigration of respect is something that is the responsibility of the adults to communicate to these young people.”

  • Thanks to Jamie Miller, du Pont Manual High School, Louisville, Kentucky, for sharing information about the Kentucky governor’s quote.
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JEA-SPRC, SPLC condemn Neshaminy school district for
punishing newspaper editor, adviser
in ongoing fight over ‘Redskins’ name

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Student Press Law Center and Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Commission condemned the actions of the Neshaminy School District in Pennsylvania Wednesday, following the District’s retaliatory and illegal actions calculated to punish thePlaywickian student newspaper, its editors and its adviser.

In response to an editorial board decision not to print the word “Redskins” because of its use as a racial slur, the administration handed down a decision this week to pull $1,200 of funding from the publication; to suspend its adviser, Tara Huber, for two days; and to suspend Editor-in-Chief Gillian McGoldrick from the newspaper until the end of September.

It has long been the law of this country that no government official can compel a student to speak or adopt words with which she disagrees. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). Imposing discipline for refusing to participate in the use of a racial slur is not only unconstitutional; it is un-American in the extreme.

These actions come at a time when a transparently illegal publications policy remains on the books at the District level, one that also purports to compel the use of certain words and attempts to hijack ownership of student work. These are, at their core, bullying tactics—forcing people to say words, then turn over their property.

Competent educators of good conscience would never resort to bullying tactics to perpetuate any ideology, let alone a racially offensive one.

We encourage the students to explore their legal options and urge the State of Pennsylvania to investigate whether the Neshaminy School Board members should be removed.

Contact:

Frank LoMonte, Executive Director, Student Press Law Center
703.807.1904 / director@splc.org

John Bowen, Director, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission
330.676.3666 / jabowen@kent.edu

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