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19 journalism groups urge
administrator organizations to disavow
Neshaminy board punishment of paper, adviser and editor

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sprclogoOct. 13, 1987 marked the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier arguments that ultimately granted administrators the right to control content of high school media in limited situations.

Oct. 13, 2014 marks a time when 19 journalism organizations joined together to urge national groups of administrators and school boards to openly disavow actions of the Neshaminy (Pa.) Board of Education that even went beyond the constraints of Hazelwood in controlling content and punishing student journalists.

“In what we hope will be a watershed event in curing America of the worst excesses of the Hazelwood era,” SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte wrote to the Advisory Committee of the SPLC,  “19 of the nation’s leading journalism organizations — including SPJ, JEA, CMA and the American Society of News Editors — co-signed an SPLC-authored letter distributed today to the nation’s leading school-administrator organizations, urging them to distance themselves from and to publicly disavow the retaliatory behavior of school administrators in Neshaminy, Pa., who are punishing student journalists for refusing to use the offensive name of the schools’ mascot.”

The joint statement can be read here.

Part of the statement pointed directly to the Hazelwood decision’s involvement: “This is a level of authority even beyond the outermost limit the Supreme Court recognized in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, to say nothing of the fact that Pennsylvania law repudiates the Hazelwood standard.”

JEA’a Press Rights Committee and the SPLC had paired on a statement earlier this month condemning Neshaminy board actions punishing the student paper, the adviser and editor.

JEA also commented on the joint statement.

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On news engagement day,
let’s engage others
with news about censorship

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sprclogoOct. 7 is #newsengagementday,  a national event created by AEJMC.

The idea is to encourage everyone to engage with news issues and ideas with students, family and, well, everyone.

National News Engagement Day was created to:

  • Raise awareness about the importance of being informed.
  • Encourage everyone to engage with news from reading and watching to tweeting and discussing.
  • Help people of all ages discover the benefits of news.
  • Educate the public about the principles and process of journalism.
  • Ensure news engagement does not die out.

JEA has endorsed the idea and urges all to participate.

I know journalism programs do this daily anyway, but let’s take this one step further.

Let’s spend the day spreading the word about the banality of censorship, particularly that kind of destructive practice we have seen at Neshaminy High School, Highlands Regional High School, Fond du Lac High School and numerous others.

Numerous other resources exist for each school, all findable by searching.

Censorship practices at those schools, past and present is newsworthy in itself, but it also blocks students and related communities from experiencing news.

Making censorship and its effects the focus on news, and using the #newsengagementday hashtag to let others know, would be a worthy use of the day.

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Where do trust and prior review meet?

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Leading a scholastic media staff in the shadow of Hazelwood

sprclogoby Chris Waugaman, MJE
A lack of trust can destroy scholastic journalism. We have seen it in a number of recent cases.

The scenario involves a student publication and a disgruntled administration. The cause of this tension can come from a variety of places, but in the end what has been broken is trust.

After this point, the battle of what you can and cannot censor in prior review becomes the first battle in an all out war. Sometimes it is unavoidable. But if there is a way to stop this from happening it begins with trust.

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Two examples showing the need to protect
the information gathering process

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sprclogoWhen a school system tells students in a new policy it proposes that it wants student media to train students in journalism, it might be time to cheer.

But not when, in the same policy, it calls for student media “to foster a wholesome school spirit and support the best traditions of the school,” and reinforces prior review.

That is the case, according to a Student Press Law Center article published Sept. 30, about what’s going on at Highlands Regional High School in New Jersey.

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Getting everyone on the side of quality journalism

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by Matt Smith,  Adviser, Cardinal Columns
Fond du Lac High School

sprclogoOn August 25, the Fond du Lac Board of Education gave the official go-ahead for student publications at Fond du Lac High School to begin the new school year operating under new publication guidelines that scrap last year’s policy of administrative prior review.

The new guidelines are not the end of the journey (the language could be more consistent in designating the paper as a public forum for student expression and would be more protective if it was incorporated more directly into actual school board policy), but they are a huge step forward.

Students will no longer submit their work to the principal for approval prior to publication. They will also have the benefit of the more powerful learning and critical thinking development that comes with taking more responsibility for the quality journalism that they produce. The biggest benefit of all, however, may have come from the mere act of finally getting together all the stakeholders involved to craft the new guidelines.

The fact we got students and teachers and administrators and district staff (and eventually the superintendent and board of education and other community members) talking constructively about the importance and practice of journalism in our school was truly powerful.

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Be disaster aware, be prepared, take action

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sprclogoby Glenn Morehouse Olson
Throughout September, I find my classes cut short time and time again as the school works to squeeze in the required fire, lockdown and tornado drills. I’ve never really given it any thought. It’s an important part of preparing students in case of an emergency.

However, on Sept. 19 an email appeared in my in-box from the U.S. Department of Education, and it turns out, September is National Preparedness Month.

The headline read:

Be Disaster Aware, Take Action During National Preparedness Month

I have a number of friends and colleagues throughout the country who have faced their worst nightmares in these situations and who understand the importance of being prepared in time of great stress. Although nothing can truly prepare us for disaster, having a plan ahead of time helps.

“Safety and effective learning go hand in hand. So, although September is a very busy time of year for the education community, it’s also a good time for students, school staff, and families to make sure they are up-to-date in their knowledge of school emergency plans, policies and procedures,” the Homeroom Blog stated.

Just as our schools take time to prepare for physical disasters, September is also a good time for journalism teachers to make sure students are up-to-date in their knowledge of legal and ethical policies and procedures that can help prevent prior review and first amendment disasters from happening or, at least help them navigate the storm should disaster strike.

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