Two examples showing the need to protect
the information gathering process


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


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


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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What filters hide: a lesson



What filters hide

Students will research common net issues with filtered sites. This lesson goes with information on this SPRC link.


Students try to access several commonly banned (but legitimate) sites. They then will create interview questions for the internet gatekeeper at their school. Students could write a news-feature story on this topic. For an extension activity, students could debate the legitimacy of banned websites. Students could then write an opinion piece on the website gatekeepers


  • Students will discover what types of worthwhile sites are banned by their school district
  • Students will learn the filtering software was mandated by federal legislation.
  • Students will create interview questions for the person in charge of deciding whether to open the “gate”
  • Students will write a story about internet filtering at their school

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2b Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8 Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

100 minutes: (two 50-minute class periods)

Computer lab and Internet access

Lesson step-by-step
Day 1

  1. Introduction — 5 minutes            Ask students if they have ever been denied access to a website while researching at school.

Ask students to brainstorm what they were searching for at that time. Either the teacher or the students should write what students say on the board.

Additionally, ask if they know of anyone who has gone around the filtering system by means of a proxie site.

  1. Online readings — 20 minutes

Ask students to read the following stories and take notes on their reading. Please let them know they will be interviewing the person who is in charge of the gatekeeping at their school. Remind students they should be professional in the interview.




Students could also see if they can think of legitimate sites that fall under the following often blocked categories and check to see if they can access the site:

Alcohol and tobacco

Illegal gambling


Drug use



Gross depictions


Search engines

Sports and leisure

Sex education

Sexual acts

Full nudity

Partial/artistic nudity.

  1. Question generation — all but the final 10 minutes of the hour.

Have students create questions based on what they have read. Each student should have between 5-10 good questions for the press conference during the next class.

  1. How to act — 5 minutes

Remind students they need to be polite and courteous, but not be afraid to ask the tough questions.

Day 2

  1. Introduction — 5 minutes

Introduce the speaker and remind students of proper protocol for a press conference.

  1. Interview — remainder of the hour


If the “gatekeeper” isn’t available, students could write an opinion piece about what they researched or a feature article on their research of blocked sites.



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What ‘s banned in your neighborhood?
Banned Websites Awareness Week brings
chance to examine extent of Internet filtering


sprclogoAccording to a new report from the American Library Association, Internet-filtering software blocks more content than required and deprives students of access to information and collaborative tools

Titled Fencing Out Knowledge: Impacts of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) 10 Years Later, the report also argues those children most affected are the poor, who might not otherwise have unfiltered Internet Access if they cannot access it at school.

JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee would like to see how journalism programs currently fare in today’s filtered high schools.

We urge you to complete the linked  survey to see what your schools filters block, either for your students or for other classes in your school.BWAD-2014_webbadge

Students surfing the Web themselves or interviewing others who do can provide students with a worthwhile experience in news literacy as they become informed about information availability and how that affects society’s knowledge and ability to act on that knowledge.

We hope this survey will gather enough representative information to allow JEA and others to design strategies to help journalism programs work in a less filtered environment.

This lesson plan by Lori Keekley can add structure to your searching.

Survey instructions:

  1. Click here to go to the survey.
  2. Each student or adviser should complete a separate form.
  3. Each form allows the student or adviser to identify multiple blocked sites
  4. Submit the results of your surveys from Sept. 24 to Oct. 3
  5. Submit all forms by Oct. 3
  6. If you gathered any of your information using audio or video or have any visual reporting, please feel free to share that with us here
  7. Use links on the accompanying graphic to access Internet filtering
  8. JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee will post information about the results in the near future
  9. Publish results of your own surveys to show the local impact of filtering and share with us
  10. If you have questions or run into problems, contact us here
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Internet filters: What do they really block?


by John Bowen
sprclogo“For speech class, senior Dave Jennings needed to find information about Nirvana and Kurt Cobain,” Maggie Beckwith, senior reporter for the Lakewood Times, began her story on the effects of Internet filtering.

“I was trying to go to the Rolling Stone magazine web site to get lyrics” Jennings said. “I couldn’t get to anything.”

Later in the story, Beckwith quoted Judith Krug, director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom, a division of the American Library Association. “Administrators can say they are ‘protecting the children’ but no they not. Filters limit choices young people have in terms of accessing school work and pursuing their own intellectual curiosity.”

That was in 2002.

Beckwith went on to study journalism at Syracuse University and interned at the Student Press Law Center.

Internet filters continued blocking legitimate sites.

Since then, groups have challenged the effectiveness of Internet filters as educationally unsound and operations for prior review and censors that set up barriers and taboos instead of educating you, according to a fact sheet on The Free Expression Policy Project website.

To raise awareness of overly restrictive blocking in schools and school libraries of legitimate, educational websites aBWAD-2014_webbadgend academically useful social networking tools, The American Association of School Librarians has designated Wednesday, Sept. 24 as Banned Websites Awareness Day

AASL asked school librarians and other educators to promote an awareness of how overly restrictive filtering affects student learning as part of Banned Books Week.

As part of that recognition, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights committee will conduct a national survey of the impact of Internet filters beginning that day and last a week. We invite you and your students to take part in the survey by going to jeasprc.org and accessing the survey information there.

The commission asks students and advisers to test their Internet filters to see if their filtering goes beyond what filters are charged with blocking by the Children’s Internet Protection Act as numerous studies and groups have argued.

When information has been gathered, SPRC will report on the survey’s results and share that data.

Please check the committee’s website, its Facebook page or JEA’s Facebook page Sept. 24 for access to the survey.


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