Censorship Case Study
by Jeff Kocur
A case study on the Fond du Lac High School Cardinal Column’s censorship by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. The study involves censorship of Fond du Lac High School’s by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. Students examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students and evaluate and hypothesize what they might do if faced with a similar situation.
• Students will examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students
• Students will discuss the censorship of a high school publication.
• Students will evaluate and hypothesize what they would do if they were in a similar situation.
Common Core State Standards
•Informational text; Integration of knowledge and ideas
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.
• Informational text; Integration of knowledge and ideas
Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principlesand use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
100 minutes (Two 50-minute classes)
Materials / resources
• Handout 1
• Handout 2
• Rape Culture Coverage
For more information about the situation:
• Article on the issue
• Student Press Law Center with links to story
• Article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
1. Background — 3 minutes
Teacher should either talk through or project the following:
Summation of issue:
Students at the Cardinal Columns, the student run newspaper at Fond Du Lac High School in Fond Du Lac, Wisc., were compelled to write a piece in the February issue about a rape culture at their school. The Editor-in-Chief, Tanvi Kumar told the Student Press Law Center the following.
“We are so saturated in a society that tolerates and even condones objectification of women and sexualizes them to be less than human beings,” Kumar said. “I think a lot of that … contributes to rape jokes and rape culture, and it’s not something that I could see going under the radar anymore.”
After the article was published, the principal, Jon Wiltzius, enacted a school board policy on the books, but not in practice, that would require the students to submit their paper to him prior to publication. He censored a photo on the cover of the next issue that was critical of the new policy.
2. Opening question — 2 minutes
Ask the students “What if this happened at your school?”
Teacher note: A healthy, mutual understanding of the First Amendment between your staff and your administrator would likely make this a non-issue, but not all schools are that lucky. You may want to share the First Amendment with the students as well.
3. Reading the article — 25 minutes
Teacher should pass out the article. Students should read the coverage in its entirety.
4. Pair work — 15 minutes
Teacher should pass out “Handout 1.” Students could work on the sheet in pairs.
If students have not finished the handout, ask them to do it for homework.
1. Recap — 5 minutes
Ask students to “remind you” of what they read about the day before.
2. Large group discussion — 15 minutes
Teacher should ask each group to report their answers. Teacher should facilitate the discussion.
3. Small group work — 15 minutes
Ask each pair to partner with another pair. Pass out “Handout 2.” Students should answer the questions from the sheet.
4. Large group discussion — 15 minutes
Again, teacher should ask each group to report their answers. Teacher should facilitate the discussion.
If students would like more information on the Fond du Lac censorship, they should access the articles listed in the resources section.
Scenario: Student journalists have just completed their first converged media assignments and are just about ready for publication across the various platforms. Several indicate they think their work is good enough to share with other groups.Can they legally or ethically do that with repercussion?
By Mark Goodman
The question of who owns the copyright of work created for scholastic media is complex, but at some point, advisers need to answer that question. The sooner that is decided, the better for all.
One thing for certain, Mark Goodman, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and current Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, said it is almost impossible for a school to claim copyright in the works students create.
“Absent a written assignment of rights signed by both student and parent (if the student is a minor),” Goodman said, “students retain the copyright to works they create.”
That’s not because public schools can’t own copyright, he said, it’s because students are not employees and the works they create are not “works for hire.” The fact they may be getting credit for a class does not change that.
If I were advising a student publication about dealing with its copyright ownership issues from this point forward, I would say the best tactic is to have every staff member (and a parent/guardian if they are a minor) sign something at the beginning of the year that says they are assigning the copyright in the works they submit to the publication to THAT PUBLICATION, or giving a permanent license to the student publication to use those works.”
In addition, there are real downsides to a school owning the copyright to student works, Goodman said. For example, if a school owns it, it can control how it is used. That inherently includes extensive censorship rights.
“If I were advising a student publication about dealing with its copyright ownership issues from this point forward,” Goodman said, “I would say the best tactic is to have every staff member (and a parent/guardian if they are a minor) sign something at the beginning of the year that says they are assigning the copyright in the works they submit to the publication to THAT PUBLICATION, or giving a permanent license to the student publication to use those works.”
He said it is possible for an student publication to own a copyright but that doesn’t make it belong to the school.
“Insert in your publication handbook or policy document a statement that states your student publication staff has authority over the copyrights owned by or licensed to the publication,” Goodman said. “If someone ever uses your publication’s contents without permission in violation of the copyright, you’ll have clear authority for asking them to stop.”
If student work is already distributed and others use it without permission, Goodman said he would recommend advisers and students act as if the publication itself owns the copyright, whether there is written documentation or not. A letter to the infringer requesting they take the material down immediately would be appropriate.
Goodman developed a model statement of who owns student works.
Goodman also said the SPLC’s Mike Hiestand wrote an excellent piece on copyright ownership on the SPLC blog .
For additional ownership resources:
• Now that it’s online… is it still mine
• The editors’ checklist (se section of copyright and ownership of work)
• Your questions answered: Ownership of content
• Model yearbook copyright warning
• SPLC model yearbook staff member license
• Prince George’s considers copyright policy that takes ownership of students’ work
• Maryland advisers react to school district’s proposal to control copyright of student work
• Protecting your yearbook: How to register the copyright to prevent piracy
• Registering your yearbook’s copyright (directions)
• Reddit’s press guidelines: Get permission from Reddditors before using their content in a ist
• Handle your yearbook copyright issues before you find the book for sale online
• Principals, advisers and students face misconceptions about who ‘owns’ student work
• Back to school checklist: who owns what?
As we all head back to school, look for some new content in the next week:
• An article focusing who who owns scholastic media content and choices to establish best approach for students
• An article discussing points of questions involving yearbook ethics
• A first look at a Policy Package to will help staffs decide what they want as the best editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual
• Continued access to our ongoing columns on journalism pedagogy, FOIA, broadcast legal and ethical issues, news literacy and more Making a Difference reporting
• Our annual Constitution Day lessons and activities
• In the meantime, check out these major points from the press rights commission:
• Takedown demands guidelines
• The Panic Button means of reporting censorship
• Our Press Rights Minute
• JEA’s position prior review
• JEA’s existing model editorial policy and support
• Online, photo and yearbook ethical statements
• First Amendment Press Freedom Award application
• A teacher’s kit for curing Hazelwood
• Our Foundations series for scholastic journalism
Something you would like us to report? Let us know.
JEA has been listed as a part of key media law and ethics resources by journalism degree.org titled 100 Key Ethics & Media Law Resources for Journalists.
“Modern journalists, and anyone else working in the media, have thorny ethical issues to contend with,” Kara James wrote in a letter notifying JEA president Mark Newton of the compilation. “The sites,organizations and articles listed here are good places for journalists (or journalism students) to learn more about the legal and ethical landscape of their field.”
The site for the compilation is http://journalismdegree.org/media-law-ethics/ .
Among other organizations listed include:
• Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
• Society of Professional journalists Ethics Handbook
• Nieman Journalism lab
JEA’s link is to the general website. Other JEA links would include the Press Rights Commission and the law and ethics curriculum for JEA members.
by Tom Gayda
Rights vs. responsibilities. Or, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. These are the phrases to keep in mind when living in a social media world.
Putting the First Amendment in action is our right, but with that right is the need to be responsible. There are many things a person can say, but sometimes those things aren’t always smart.
Even adults have to be careful. I may not agree with a decision made professionally, but to call out my boss or colleague and question his or her integrity might not be wise. My job doesn’t owe me my First Amendment rights the way sitting on my back porch talking to a friend does. Sure, I can say what I want, but if I want employment I might want to be careful. My boss probably isn’t as interested in my right to free speech when it knocks him or his company.
A student encounters similar situations. Perhaps not even that bad. Say a math student gets a poor grade on a test. Math student takes to Twitter and says the math teacher doesn’t know how to teach. Not really the worst thing a kid could say but if the math teacher hears about the comment, extra credit opportunities might dry up pretty fast. If the same math student calls the teacher a more colorful name the punishment might just be a little harsher.
Not that long ago we actually lived in a world where a lot of things we were thinking were left unsaid, but now the majority of us our gridded up we can’t go too many minutes without sharing something with someone.
The best thing to do is think first. Does your comment add something to life? Is it necessary someone see what you are thinking? Sometimes it might be wiser to act responsibly and keep a comment or two private.
Everyone is working their way through how to speak their mind and be responsible. And while we are lucky to have the First Amendment to protect us, it is important to keep in mind that our words matter whether they are protected or not.
As the national organizations of journalism educators committed to the training of future journalists and the preparation of citizens for life in our democracy, we write to express our vigorous opposition to the proposed policy changes under consideration by the Neshaminy Board of School Directors that relate to school-sponsored student publications
We find the proposed policy changes, which give school officials virtually unlimited authority to censor student journalism even of the highest quality, educationally unsound, constitutionally insufficient and morally indefensible. They are inconsistent with the student media policies recommended by national education experts.