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by John Bowen
The Journalism Education Association and the Student Press Law Center urge state and regional journalism organizations to make a national statement that nothing educational or legitimate comes from censorship stemming from the 1988 U. S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision.

hazelwoodcolorJEA’s board of directors voted unanimously to endorse a resolution by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication that said, in part, “the Hazelwood level of control over student journalistic speech is clearly incompatible with the effective teaching of journalistic skills, values and practices, and that institutions of secondary and postsecondary education should forswear reliance on Hazelwood as a source of authority for the governance of student and educator expression.”

JEA’s resolution differed slightly from the AEJMC model as it focused more directly on scholastic journalism.

“This resolution is important for two reasons,” JEA president Mark Newton said. “Anytime we can partner with our college colleagues in AEJMC it shows incredible solidarity. And, most importantly, as the leading scholastic journalism education group, we must stand tall and scream at injustice. Make no mistake, the Hazelwood Supreme Court decision and its subsequent interpretations are an injustice to education, students, advisers and the First Amendment.”

The pendulum simply has swung too far toward heavy-handed school control following 25 years of failed experimentation with the Hazelwood level of censorship authority, SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said.

“Hazelwood has proven itself to be legally unsound, educationally counterproductive, and as a practical matter entirely unnecessary,” LoMonte said,  “since schools from California to Massachusetts have functioned just fine for decades without it.”

JEA’s resolution states, in part, “No legitimate pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism on the grounds that it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, that it candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or that it voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech, or the punishment of media advisers based on that speech, is detrimental to effective learning and teaching, and it cannot be justified by reference to “pedagogical concerns.”

“The educators who know journalism best are united in their conviction school censorship authority should never be used to discourage students from engaging on the social and political issues that concern them, including issues involving the quality of their own educational experience,” LoMonte said.  “That is a message that the courts cannot ignore when the next Hazelwood censorship case invariably arises. What constitutes a “legitimate pedagogical concern” that justifies school censorship should be decided be educators, not school attorneys, and the JEA resolution sends the unmistakable message that censoring for purposes of P.R. image control is educationally indefensible.”

What you can do
Here’s what JEA and its Scholastic Press Rights Commission would like you to do:
• Study the AEJMC and JEA resolutions attached to this packet
• Ask questions as needed by emailing jabowen@kent.edu
• Prepare a statement showing your organization’s endorsement of JEA’s resolution and publish it
• Notify JEA and the SPRC of your endorsement, and provide us with a copy of the resolution

The first endorsement is already in: the Kettle Moraine Press Association. The Ohio Scholastic Media Association and the Center for Scholastic Journalism endorsed during the day, April 22.

“Our goal is to support journalism advisers and students with the full voice of the Kettle Moraine Press Association,” their resolution states in part. “In doing so, the KEMPA Board of Directors unanimously endorses the JEA Resolution: Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier anniversary/First Amendment and censorship authority and its position that the censorship of speech which candidly discusses social and political issues in school publications and the punishment of media advisers based on that exercise of free speech is detrimental to effective learning and teaching.”

JEA’s and the Scholastic Press Rights Comission’s goal is simple: We want to have all 50 states make a statement that can be cited by courts as consensus of journalism educators as to what is a legitimate educational reason for censorship – not the random fears Hazelwood generates.

Although JEA has set no deadline for state endorsements, SPRC chair John Bowen urged states to act as quickly as possible.

“The sooner we can point to agreement with these statements,” Bowen said, “the more likelihood we have of making a usable statement for courts and others. Having this in hand before school begins in August would be a real plus.”

Attached materials:
• AEJMC Resolution can be found at http://www.aejmc.org/home/2013/04/resolution-one-2013/

• JEA Resolution attached and available here.

 

 

One Comment

  1. This is a fantastic idea! I will strongly encourage our partner schools to do this and have our joint publication adopt it as well. Thanks!

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