Pages Navigation Menu

The National Walkout

Posted by on Apr 2, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Cyndy Hyatt
This generation of high school students has grown up in a world where school shootings are common and just another event in the news. Although gun violence in schools has lost its shock

value, students still hold in the back of their minds the fear that it can happen here.

Before the Parkland shootings Feb. 14, there had been a recorded 18 school shootings in 2018. And then came the tragedy at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School where 17 people lost their lives at the hand of a young man with an AR-15 type assault rifle.

After the initial outrage, this story didn’t fade away like the other 18 this year. It was different. Students said ENOUGH and now we are witnessing an unprecedented student initiated movement to end gun violence, a movement that that led to the March 14 ENOUGH walk-out. That Wednesday at 10 a.m. students from coast to coast left their classrooms to join others in solidarity and protest.

Although some schools have threatened to punish students who participated, most seem to have supported this free-speech event. Open-minded administrations worked with student groups to support the walkout. They have recognized that student voices need to be heard and rightfully so.

The walkout appears to have been a successful exercise of First Amendment rights – to peacefully gather and protest, to speak out and to call others into action. And it was another opportunity for student journalists to cover a national event that most likely affected their own school as well.

This year may prove to be the year of the student-led protest and a new appreciation for the power of the First Amendment. And perhaps this will also be the year when students realize the value of uncensored student journalism, a way to hear voices and opinions without persecution or punishment.


Read More

Stories students can best tell:
Reporting protests, walkouts and marches

Posted by on Mar 29, 2018 in Blog, Featured, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Between March 14 and March 24, the SPRC shared legal and ethical guidelines as well as coverage suggestions for reporting walkouts, protests and marches.

Because the topics are still ongoing and current, we’re loading all of our advice under one banner, for your convenience.

If you have other questions or examples of coverage you would like to share here, please submit them through the comments section below.

We intend to add material as needed or available.

Students, join movement to make change: Mary Beth Tinker
Legal issues in covering protests
Tips for reporting protests
Tips of audio reporting of protests, walkouts
Plan and pack for social media coverage of protests
More than a march: a civics lesson and a wake-up call
SPRC package offers  insights for reporting protests, marches
Reporting stories student journalists can best tell

Shared materials 

• Eric Garner shared this collaborative documentary created by the students of WMSD-TV at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as students and alum from schools across the country. It covers the days after the incident as the school begins the rebuilding, and healing, process.

• Coverage by Harker School of San Jose and San Francisco student marches.

Read More

More than a march;
a civics lesson and a wake-up call

Posted by on Mar 25, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Students lined up outside Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois re watched by security. Photo by Stan Zoeller, MJE, and SPRC committee member.

by Stan Zoller, MJE
The walk-outs by thousands of high school students on March 14 did more than call attention to a revamping of the nation’s gun laws, they also provided Americans with several other things.

A wake-up call.

A civics lesson.

And a realization that high school students today are doing what high school students did when I was in high school — speak up and demand to be heard.

When Baby Boomers were in high school, we dealt with Vietnam, equal rights for women and the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18.

Vietnam was popular with very few people while the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the lowering of the voting age in Illinois via Project 18, sparked

divisive debates across generations.

The murders of students by gunfire appears to be no different as they seem to be awakening a generation that

discovered it has a voice that needs to be heard.

Parents, politicians and school administrators need to listen.

Two high schools in my hometown allowed students to participate in the March, although in different ways.

One allowed students to congregate only near the main entrance. The entire campus was off limits to anyone with one security office saying it was because the march was a “school event,” which make no sense. Neither does the comment by another security officer who said I wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures because many of the students were minors.

The district’s official position, said the district’s communications supervisor was “the District decided to restrict access to our campuses for a brief period this morning to ensure the safety and security of our students during this morning’s walkout. The decision to briefly restrict access is also in line with how most schools in the Chicagoland area handled the nationwide walkouts.”

She added that “These displays were student-led and peaceful, and our student leaders did a phenomenal job making sure everyone was back in the building when the 17 minutes were over.”

Spoken like a true flack.

It’s interesting that she said, “The decision to briefly restrict access” was “in line with how most schools in the Chicagoland area handled the nationwide walkouts.”

According a spokesman for the other school, “We had an estimated 2,000 students participate in the walkout (today). We reached agreement with the student organizers to have an organized march starting from the “circle drive” entrance and heading south along the building to the Garden of Peace, Hope and Remembrance. From there, students walked into the alley behind the school building to go back inside and return to class. The walkout went off without incident.”

While the school blocked its main entrance, access was available through a second secondary entrance without any problem.

The need for tight security is understandable. The display of local police officers at the first school was unprecedented for a “school event” – even the truck enforcement officer was there.

By limiting students — as many districts did – including one which allegedly told students they could march if they didn’t say anything political, are educators limiting the opportunity for students to become civically engaged?

One Chicago area district, Downers Grove District 99, reportedly issued nearly 1,000 detentions to students who were brazen enough to participate in marches at Downers Grove North and South high schools.  The detentions, according to one media report, were in an auditorium where there were conversations about gun violence.

A nice gesture, but what is the result of these conversations? Student voices need to be continuously heard in public, by the public and by lawmakers – not just by school administrators who are bent on control issues.  Gun violence is not the first issue to fire-up student voices.

A rash of shooting of African-American men in 2014 sparked the “Black Lives Matter” movement and was fueled by demonstrations and outcries le by young people who wanted their voices heard and action taken.

Which raises the question – is squelching student voices the best practice if we want today’s high school students to become more civically engaged?

This is not the first generation of young people to push for change.  All administrators need to do is crack open a history book and, as Mr. Peabody would say, “set the way-back machine, Sherman.”

They’ll find that what goes around comes around as it did in the Vietnam era of the 1960s. Students at the collegiate and scholastic levels were relentless in their actions and messages. Today’s students need to have that same relentlessness and resiliency, so their concerns become actions in the nation’s statehouses and in Washington, D.C.

People – whether students or not – need make sure their voices are continually heard and not silenced by overzealous school administrators or PAC-induced lawmakers.

People’s voices, not silence, will make a difference.

But only if people listen and act before it’s too late.


Read More

Legal issues in covering protests

Posted by on Mar 23, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Mark Goodman, Knight Chair of Scholastic Journalism
The 1960s earned a reputation as the decade of protest: the Vietnam War, equal rights for African-Americans, women and gays. But the 2010s are on the way to rivaling the 60s as a decade of protest, especially for young people.

Black Lives Matter, the Tea Party, #metoo, anti-gun violence and New Voices have not just been social media campaigns. They have resulted in on-the-ground protests, in and around schools, that student journalists have done their best to cover.

Reporting in the midst of protests can present a unique set of legal issues. One of the most important questions for journalists engaged in protest coverage: what rights do the protesters have to engage in their protest?  Are public school administrators or law enforcement officials legally able to stop or limit their activity?  (Remember, the First Amendment is only a limitation on the government. Thus private school officials do not infringe on First Amendment rights by their actions.  However students in two states, California and Rhode Island, may have protections under their state laws.)

The legal rules regulating protests may be different depending on whether the protest occurs on campus or off. In the community, students or adults engaged in protest have the same First Amendment protections: they can’t break the law by engaging in violence or impeding traffic or public passage on a sidewalk, for example.  But their right to voice their views is entitled to protection.

At school, expressive activity is subject to greater limitation but still is protected by the First Amendment. The general rule used to justify censorship of student speech at a public school is based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

The legal rules regulating protests may be different depending on whether the protest occurs on campus or off. In the community, students or adults engaged in protest have the same First Amendment protections: they can’t break the law by engaging in violence or impeding traffic or public passage on a sidewalk, for example.  But their right to voice their views is entitled to protection.

In that 1969 case, the court said a public school must tolerate student expression at school unless school officials can show the speech will invade the rights of other students or create a material and substantial disruption of school activities.  Invasion of the rights of others is typically defined as libeling someone or invading their privacy.  Material and substantial disruption most commonly translates to some kind of physical disruption of classwork or extra-curricular activities.

So what kinds of protest activities could result in punishment under this Tinker standard?  Advocacy of violence or engaging in vandalism, participating in an unapproved walkout or otherwise failing to participate in classes are possible examples. Thus student protesters may choose to walk out of school but a school is probably legally justified in punishing students who engage in that form of protest.

What is clear is neither school officials or police can punish protesters simply because they are motivated by a desire to protest.  The punishment issued for walking out of class or blocking a street as a means of protest can be no greater than the punishment received by those who engaged in the same offense for non-protest-related reasons.

For example, the student who leaves school to attend an anti-gun violence rally can’t be punished more severely than the student who skips class to get fast food for lunch.

At many schools and in many communities, journalists have been given some special authorization to operate on the scene of news events like protests.  For example, some law enforcement agencies will issue press credentials to journalists affiliated with a legitimate news organization that may make it easier for journalists to do their job.

If such a credentialing process exists, student journalists should take advantage of it.  When it doesn’t exist, many newsrooms have created their own “press passes” that journalists can wear or show if needed when covering a protest.

The benefit of a press pass is it can help with one of the biggest challenges for journalists: distinguishing yourselves from the protesters. The more reporters or photographers look like protesters, the greater the likelihood they will be treated like them and could be subject to the same limitations.

Journalists have private lives as well and may want to be involved in supporting causes.  But they cannot ask to be treated like a journalist, with any special recognition that may provide, if they are engaging in protest at the same time.

Press credentials are one valuable tool for the journalist in avoiding legal problems when covering a protest.  But there are other tactics that are equally useful.  It’s valuable for a news gathering to fully understand where he or she has the right to collect information.

Journalists have private lives as well and may want to be involved in supporting causes.  But they cannot ask to be treated like a journalist, with any special recognition that may provide, if they are engaging in protest at the same time.

As one would expect, public spaces are fair game.  Protesters in action on a sidewalk or city park (or even a school athletic field) have no reasonable expectation of privacy and cannot object to their activity being reported on or filmed when it occurs there.

But protesters who meet in a private home to discuss their plans for their next big event would have a reasonable expectation of privacy and sneaking into their meeting could be an actionable invasion of privacy.

Ultimately, a student news organization most wants the ability to meaningfully cover a protest.  Having conversations in advance with school officials and/or police about the unique and important role of journalists in documenting the events can sometimes help avoid problems before they arise.

The reality is some of those in authority would prefer there was no media coverage of protests. They may believe it encourages others to join in the protest or they may disagree with the message of the protest altogether.

The ability of public school officials to limit student press coverage of protests is guided by the same standards that apply to other acts of censorship: the Supreme Court decisions in Tinker and Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988).

Hazelwood only applies to school-sponsored venues for student expression like student media when those media outlets have not been operating as designated public forums.  (Public forum means student editors have been allowed to make their own content decisions. That status can be determined by either school policy or the practice of how the publication has traditionally operated.)

For a non-forum publication, Hazelwood says school officials could censor if they can show their censorship is based on a reasonable educational justification.  That standard, still much debated, gives a significant amount of ability to censor to school officials, but it’s not unlimited.

Before they could censor a factually accurate story about a protest, administrators would have to show their motivation wasn’t based on disagreement with the views of the protesters but instead was based on some legitimate educational concern.

For student news organizations operating as designated public forums where students make the content decisions, the school’s ability to censor is much more constrained.

For student news organizations operating as designated public forums where students make the content decisions, the school’s ability to censor is much more constrained.

As with the protesters themselves, the school would have to show the media coverage caused a material and substantial disruption of school activities or a legal invasion of the rights of others (the Tinker standard). That’s a difficult test for school officials to meet.

And, of course, if a student journalist is working in one of the 14 states[1] that have enacted a student free press law (Washington state joined the list just this week!), the school would have to comply with the provisions of that state law before it could censor as well.

As with all media law questions, students and their advisers should go to the experts when they have questions about their legal rights and responsibilities in covering protests: the Student Press Law Center.

Check out the SPLC’s valuable guide to covering protests:

[1] Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Read More

Plan and pack for social media coverage of protests

Posted by on Mar 22, 2018 in Blog, Digital Media, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


The three photos on this page are from the Women’s March Jan. 21, 2017, and show what a similar protest could be like March 24. Photos courtesy of Marina Hendricks.

by Marina Hendricks, CJE
Social media offers great possibilities for real-time reporting of protests. Here’s some advice for student journalists who are preparing for protest coverage, based on my experience attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017.

Before you go

Check rules and regulations. Participants in the Women’s March were limited to clear backpacks and handbags roughly equivalent to the size of large wallets. I didn’t have a backpack, so I carried a small cross-body bag and wore a jacket with plenty of pockets for stashing equipment and supplies.

Develop a communication plan. Save phone numbers in your devices so you can contact each other. Use an app such as GroupMe, WhatsApp or Signal to organize group messaging. Study maps to become familiar with the area. Designate a safe rendezvous point away from the protest site (such as a restaurant or coffee shop) and set times for regular in-person check-ins.

Figure out what you’re going to use. In selecting your social media channels for protest coverage, consider where you’re most likely to engage with your audience that day, then make a list of relevant hashtags and handles. Large-scale events typically have both national and local organizing groups. Determine which hashtags you’re most likely to use, and identify the social media players you plan to tag and @mention. Save the list where you can find it easily.

Prepare for coverage. Social media reporting involves working with phones, and large crowds of people mean jammed cellular networks. This excellent article by Beatrice Motamedi, CJE, contains tips on working around jams to report and communicate, and provides other helpful advice. Take an extra phone charger, a clear plastic bag to protect your phone from rain or snow, a small notebook and a couple of pens.

Pack for a long day. In addition to reporting gear, you’ll want items to keep you comfortable throughout the event. These include a refillable water bottle that can be attached to clothing, hand wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, granola or protein bars, a small first-aid kit, over-the-counter pain reliever and necessary prescription medication, cash (small bills), mass transit cards and maps of the area. Tuck photo identification and proof of health insurance in an inside pocket of your jacket for safekeeping.

At the event

Choose attire carefully. Wear comfortable shoes and a jacket and pants with lots of pockets. Dress in layers, with long-sleeved shirts or hoodies that you can tie around your waist if you get too warm. “Glittens” protect your hands while keeping your fingers free to work your phone. A ballcap can help protect your eyes from sun or rain, depending on the weather.

Practice safety. Make sure a trusted adult knows where you’re going to be and how long you plan to be there. Follow the buddy system – work in pairs. Maintain awareness of the environment around you. Look for alternative routes to exit the protest site. Be prepared to see and hear things that may make you uncomfortable. Remember, you’re there to report. If you feel unsafe, however, leave the area.

Make yourself identifiable as a student journalist. Carry a staff photo ID and/or wear a staff shirt. If you have business cards, take some with you.

Be considerate. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. That said, when interviewing and shooting photos or videos, make sure people are comfortable with what you’re doing.

This is especially important with children. Ask permission first, from the kids as well as their parents. Even if kids seem comfortable, parents understandably may get nervous. They may not want their children on social media. For tips on interviewing children, see this Columbia Journalism Review article and this guide written by Sarah Carr for the Education Writers Association.

Exercise judgment. People who attend protests are passionate, creative and colorful in expressing their opinions. Their language and signs may be explicit. Watch and listen for what might not meet your editorial standards.

Savor the experience. You are witnessing history and helping to record it. Enjoy!

Read More

Tips for audio reporting of protests, walkouts

Posted by on Mar 21, 2018 in Blog, Broadcast, Digital Media, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Video and audio by Lucie Rutherford. Used with permission Part of HHS Media, Harrisonburg High School’s coverage of students, faculty and staff lined up to show solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High where 17 died in a shooting Feb. 14.

Knowing how to prepare and work with audio in covering protests, walkouts. SPRC member Vince DeMiero and junior Marianne Nacanaynay of  talk about solutions to audio issues.

Read More