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Need help with censorship issues?
Press the Panic Button!

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JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission (SPRC) has set up a uniform process to help advisers – and students – who seek advice about handing censorship or other legal issues.

The Panic Button.

The Panic Button is an online reporting tool to collect information from those experiencing some type of censorship.

When an adviser or student uses the Panic Button to submit information, designated SPRC members receive notification. This sets in motion a series of responses following a checklist system. In no way will the commission direct the fight against censorship, but each person has a different course of action in supporting the adviser and students while offering suggestions and resources specific to that situation.

As JEA vice president and Commission member Sarah Nichols reported in an email to state and regional directors and board members,  “We [a Press Rights Commission subcommittee that developed the process] focused on four key goals:
• A consistent method of reporting
• A process that works quickly
• A tool for collecting data
• A way to avoid overlap and prevent harm.”

Here’s who gets involved and how:
When the adviser hits the panic button and files a report, he or she instantly gets a check sheet with steps to take – like “Take a deep breath — you have support” and “Keep a paper trail.” A student can hit the Panic Button, too, and the check sheet he or she gets is a little different, including, “Contact the Student Press Law Center,” and “Get parental and other student support.” That request for assistance goes to six SPRC members, who quickly respond.

The JEA state and regional director will receive an email from the vice president, letting them know of a situation in their area. At that point, the state director has a checklist to follow in support of the adviser. The checklist is included in the new JEA State Director Guide (to be released in April). Available immediately below the Panic Button! are links for proactive steps to fighting censorship

While others begin to react, the commission chair reviews the information to determine our focus. If the situation is “typical,” the process will focus on helping fight censorship, sharing information, putting people in contact, publicizing the story on a broader level (if desired by the adviser) and so forth.

If, on the other hand, the situation reported raises red flags regarding unethical behavior or a case of questionable journalism/teaching, the SPRC’s involvement will focus on a different kind of support, as we seek to educate, provide resources for ethical guidelines and connect the adviser to JEA Mentoring, Certification and Curriculum/Development to get help.

Three SPRC members also receive notification, one of whom will make contact with the adviser based on media type (newspaper/news magazine, yearbook or news website).

At the same time, an adviser liaison to the Student Partners 45words group receives notification, so the students can begin outreach efforts via social media to affected students.

Of course, throughout this process, everyone will remind the adviser and students to seek guidance from the SPLC because it is the best source for legal advice.

When an adviser completes the online reporting form (from the Panic Button), an adviser checklist opens on his or her screen. When a student completes the form, the page downloads a student checklist. These documents should serve as “in the meantime” support while we move to the next steps.

All Reporting Censorship resources are available on the Commission website, under Panic Button! and Resources. A storehouse of other materials is also available on the site.

This contact from JEA is meant to assist local supporters, not replace it. It will also not provide legal advice, but will refer all involved parties to the Student Press Law Center.

We look forward to sharing more with you about this process, as well as answering your questions, at the state director and commission meetings in Seattle. Feel free to email us directly, too. We hope these materials and this systematic process will be helpful to everyone involved.

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