MAKING A DIFFERENCE Series
Students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, DC, spoke out when a faculty committee chose officers for the upcoming student government offices instead of holding an election. That misstep caught the attention of The Beacon staff who wrote about the injustice in several issues. By the end to the year, the coverage in The Beacon resulted in a reversal of the decision, thus reinstating the election process to the school.
Adviser, Mary Stapp shared “In our September issue The Wilson Beacon wrote about the school’s administration changing the process of Student Government Association elections, including an editorial on p. 4. Instead of having students elect their leaders, administrators decided to appoint leaders themselves. Before the Beacon reported on it, no one knew how SGA officers had been [s]elected. In our April issue, Opinions Editor Christina Harn reflected on the “Lack of Leadership Opportunities” (p.5). Our June issue reported the resulting “SGA Elections Reinstated,” after the principal widely acknowledged the importance of the student voice and the meaning of democracy.”
See the packages the Beacon staff shared in the September and April issues.
Student voice in publications and student government makes a difference in schools. The Beacon staff made a difference by bringing the process of student elections back to the students instead of a faculty committee.
If your students have to make takedown decisions, the legal advice is essential. Just as important are the various ethical possibilities, too.
While the legal principles are relatively clear, ethical principles might not be.. In ethical decision-making, there is topically no right or wrong but primarily right v. right decsision. Such decisions might depend on the mission and goals of your student media.
These points might help in ethical decision-making:
• The default position is not to take down anything newsworthy or accurate at the time of original publication unless there are clear, definably correct legal reasons: libel, unwarranted invasion of privacy, obscenity. Everything else stays. The reason: if someone on the staff thought it good enough to post once, it should stay. Maybe Put Up guidelines would help students avoid later issues. If your material is legally unsupportable or demonstrably inaccurate, you would likely, for justifiable journalistic reasons, want to change it.
• Original posts and articles also have historical/reality value. Good enough to go up, good enough to stay up. In Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s Elements of Journalism, the first obligation is to publish, no matter the platform, the truth as best we know it. Second-guessing that later, for whatever reason, can set a nasty precedent of what the historical record is. Considering Takedown demands/requests might also start students on a slippery slope of second-guessing and ultimately self-censorship.
• If there is a one-time reason, like something later proven to be untrue, then the student staff could make an exception. These exceptions would, by definition, be rare.
• Lastly, just because students agree to take down an item, does not cleanse the Web of the information, image or information.
• Some compromises that can be taken, according to The Online Privacy Blog include:
–Sunsetting that retires certain kinds of information (like arrests) after a certain preset period
–Block the article from search engines
–Make names anonymous or remove them
–Unpublish the entire article if the information is “old, irrelevant or dangerous to an individual’s privacy or safety”
–Add an update for clarification
See more for the complete package:
Evaluating legal demands
10 steps to a “Put Up” policy
Handling online comments
Even though Sunshine Week 2014 has passed, you can still obtain information about how colleges regulate athletes’ speech using social media and whether colleges would release the information when asked.
This information is interesting and important on its own, but can also be localized for coverage in scholastic media.
The resources are available here and here.
The SPLC has licensed these pieces using a Creative Commons license to encourage republication.
Information in the packages was researched by students at the Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and developed into the finished product by SPLC Publications Fellow Sara Gregory and journalism intern Rex Santus of Kent State University.
Editor’s note: The following is the introduction to Mary Beth Tinker at Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif. It is used here with permission in an effort to reach as many people as possible.
Kavleen Singh, co-editor-in-chief, The Roar introduced Mary Beth Tinker and the Tinker tour April 1 at Whitney High School.
Here is her speech:
We listen, we read, and we speak. How do we do all of that? With words. The string of sounds and syllables we convert into meaningful messages is the most prominent outlet in expressing one’s thoughts.
There’s great power that comes with the mastery of words, and it can cause a massive uproar. Just over the past few years, Egypt and Tunisia incited a revolution that was fueled through Twitter and Facebook. Both social media outlets are traversed with words. But here in the United States, we have a protection for words that many countries unfortunately do not. We have the First Amendment.
It is through the 45 words of the First Amendment that we are granted a voice in society, free to speak our minds and participate in a melting pot of diverse opinions and clash constructively with others. There have been challenges throughout history regarding the First Amendment, and few are more prominent than that of the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines. As a freshman in Journalism I class, I learned about the Tinker case and how the courage of Mary Beth Tinker led to the high court setting a precedent that would forever impact students. In the decision, Justice Abe Fortas said, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Now, as I stand before you as editor-in-chief and a much more experienced journalist, I can better appreciate that protection. In my four years with Whitney High Student Media, we have reported on two teacher arrests, bullying, online privacy, struggles with sexuality, smoking, body image, suicide, depression and a variety of other stories important to our readers. I am grateful for the freedom of speech and of the press afforded to us by the First Amendment and the California Educational Code that supports us in this responsibility. I also am grateful to have the resources available from the Student Press Law Center and to know that outside the gates of our school, other journalists are working just as hard to tell the important stories at their school — stories that take courage to find, hear, and deliver with fairness and accuracy to help improve communities and their audiences all around the world.
It is my honor and absolute pleasure to present free speech activist Mary Beth Tinker.
- Kavleen Singh, co-editor-in-chief, The Roar
Whitney High Student Media; Rocklin, Calif.
Journalism students at Whitney also published Storify coverage of the Tinker Tour here. Consider using Storify as another way to report events. News coverage can be read here and photo gallery coverage here .
The Tinker Tour also stopped April 2 at Monta Vista High School, and included a panel discussion with Tinker, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center and Nick Ferentinos, retired adviser whose students won a post-Hazelwood censorship battle. Two Monta Vista students who successfully defied a subpoena earlier this year using the California shield laws also spoke.
Tomorrow, April 3, journalism students will live stream the Tinker Tour assembly from Convent of the Sacred Heart HS in San Francisco at 10:45 PDT. At the end, student journalists will take questions hashtagged #TinkerTourSF via Twitter.
Coverage can be accessed here
For those of you in PRIVATE SCHOOLS, this is your chance to get in questions specific to your situation. (But everyone else should feel free to logon, too
For those in PRIVATE SCHOOLS, this is your chance to get in questions specific to your situation.
Watch the western segment of the Tinker Tour as it visits Whitney High School and students from northern California April 1, 10 a.m. Pacific time.
The Tinker Tour is a special project of the Student Press Law Center. Its goal is to bring real-life civics lessons to schools and communities through my story and those of other young people, according to the Tour website.
“I made a difference with just a simple, black armband,” Mary Beth Tinker is quoted. “Can you imagine what a shy 13-year-old could do today with all of the extraordinary speech tools available?”
To watch the presentation live, visit www.wctv19.com.
Also follow the Tinker Tour at #tinkertour.
Advisers, as you prepare for the end of year contest submissions, consider entering student work in the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission Making a Difference project. You can fill out this online form and upload documents for consideration for publication.
We published our first copy of Making a Difference in hard copy in 1988 because of the Hazelwood malaise. In that version, now downloadable, we highlighted scholastic reporting that demonstrated student journalism did not need the heavy hard of prior review and censorship. That tradition continues today and will continue so long as students continue to take their roles seriously and professionally.
In 2012, we committed ourselves to updating the project, hoping to show student journalism had not succumbed to Hazelwood.
We have seen some great work by student journalists across the country covering some intense topics. Let’s show the country what great work student journalists are doing that rivals work done by professional journalists.
You can enter your students’ work here: http://tinyurl.com/bmz6m5r
Here are some of the stories submitted earlier:
Making a Difference articles – 2014
• Students speak out about cancellation of SGA elections
• And the children shall lead them. Student journalists Make a Difference
• Student journalists make a difference
• Making a Difference: Student journalists document controversy
• Broken Hearts and Broken Minds
• Students tackle coverage of rape culture
• Freshman capstone project localizes national issue of gay rights
• Guns in America: From schools to shooting ranges
• Students speak out about cancellations of SGA elections
• Freshman capstone project localizes national issues of gay rights
• Exposing the killing impact of Heroin
Past student work:
• Past stories: You can Make a Difference. Show everyone how