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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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