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Circuit Court decisions support student freedoms QT 64

Posted by on May 2, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Quick Hits: Student First Amendment Rights

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism and status as a limited public forum. (Dean v. Utica Community Schools, 2004)

The principal of Utica High School told the student newspaper, the Arrow, to cut an article by student journalist Katy Dean, as well as an accompanying editorial and an editorial cartoon. The students had written about a couple, Rey and Joanne Frances, who were suing the school district. They claimed the idling diesel buses in the school garage next to their home had caused the husband’s cancer.

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier allows administrators to censor for “legitimate pedagogical concerns.” The principal said the articles were based on “unreliable” sources and that the article was “highly inaccurate.” Perhaps these reasons were given as his legitimate pedagogical concerns.

The students published a black box with the word “Censored” across it in white lettering, and an editorial on censorship. A local newspaper later published Dean’s censored article.

The case was decided in the United States District Court in Katy Dean’s favor because of the Arrow’s status as a limited public forum, and on the quality of the journalism. (This is a different interpretation of “limited public forum” from the Second Circuit in Ochshorn v. Ithaca City School District..

Establishing a Public Forum in Practice and Policy

The judge ruled that the student paper was a public forum, even though it was produced by a class for school credit. He used the nine criteria established in Draudt v. Wooster. Because it was a public forum and therefore under Tinker,[link] not under Hazelwood, the principal had violated the students’ rights.

To determine if the paper was a public forum, the judge looked at the practice of the publication.  In its 25 year history, the officials at the school had never intervened in the editorial process of the publication. The students had no practice of submitting content to school officials for prior review, nor did the faculty adviser regulate the topics the newspaper covered. In practice the paper was a public forum.

School policy also supported the “Arrow’s” status as a public forum. The curriculum guide and the course descriptions provided evidence that it should enjoy the protections of Tinker.

Clarifying When Censorship is Permissible Under Hazelwood

Though the judge ruled the paper was under the Tinker standard, he also closely examined the censored article by Katy Dean using the Hazelwood standards of fairness, research and writing.  He found that, even under Hazelwood, “the suppression of the article was unconstitutional.” The school officials had claimed the work was “inaccurate” because they disagreed with the opinions of people quoted in the story. What the district called “inaccurate” was simply an attempt to disguise “what is, in substance, a difference of opinion with its content,” the judge wrote.  Even under the Hazelwood standard, the officials had violated the students’ rights.

In his decision, the judge quoted President Harry S. Truman: Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.

He also quoted President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.”

Dean v. Utica shows two avenues for student journalists to free themselves from Hazelwood. The first is to be a public forum in either “policy or practice.” The second is to produce high quality journalism.

Resources: http://s3.amazonaws.com/cdn.getsnworks.com/spl/pdf/deanvutica.pdf

http://www.splc.org/article/2004/11/dean-v-utica-community-schools

http://jea.org/home/curriculum-resources/deancase/

 

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Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism,
status as an open public forum

Posted by on Oct 30, 2017 in Blog, Legal issues, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

 Dean v. Utica Community Schools, 2004

Quick Tip 25: Student First Amendment Rights

by Jan Ewell
The principal of Utica High School told the student newspaper, the Arrow, to cut an article by student journalist Katy Dean, as well as an accompanying editorial and an editorial cartoon. The students had written about a couple, Rey and Joanne Frances, who were suing the school district. They claimed idling diesel buses in the school garage next to their home had caused the husband’s cancer.

Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier allows administrators to censor for “legitimate pedagogical concerns.” The principal said that the articles were based on “unreliable” sources and that the article was “highly inaccurate.” Perhaps these reasons were given as his legitimate pedagogical concerns.

The students published a black box with the word “Censored” across it in white lettering, and an editorial on censorship. A local newspaper later published Dean’s censored article.

The case was decided in the United States District Court in Katy Dean’s favor because of the Arrow’s status as a limited public forum, and on the quality of the journalism.

Establishing a Public Forum in Practice and Policy

The judge ruled that the student paper was a public forum, even though it was produced by a class for school credit. He used the nine criteria established in Draudt v. Wooster.[link] Because it was a public forum and therefore under Tinker v. Des Moines not under Hazelwood, the principal had violated the students’ rights.   

To determine if the paper was a public forum, the judge looked at the practice of the publication.  In its 25 year history, the officials at the school had never intervened in the editorial process of the publication. The students had no practice of submitting content to school officials for prior review, nor did the faculty adviser regulate the topics the newspaper covered. In practice the paper was a public forum.

School policy also supported the “Arrow’s” status as a public forum. The curriculum guide and the course descriptions provided evidence that it should enjoy the protections of Tinker.

Clarifying When Censorship is Permissible Under Hazelwood

Though the judge ruled the paper was under the Tinker standard, he also closely examined the censored article by Katy Dean using the Hazelwood standards of fairness, research and writing.  He found that, even under Hazelwood, “the suppression of the article was unconstitutional.” The school officials had claimed the work was “inaccurate” because they disagreed with the opinions of people quoted in the story. What the district called “inaccurate” was simply an attempt to disguise “what is, in substance, a difference of opinion with its content,” the judge wrote.  Even under the Hazelwood standard, the officials had violated the students’ rights.

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.” –– Harry S. Truman

In his decision, the judge quoted President Harry S. Truman: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

He also quoted President Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed.”

Dean v. Utica shows two avenues for student journalists to free themselves from Hazelwood. The first is to be a public forum in either “policy or practice.” The second is to produce high quality journalism.

Resources:

Dean v. Utica Community Schools

Why Dean v. Utica is important

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Lessons on ‘things we did not want them to know’ result in successful action against censors

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Gloria Olman
Hazelwood stories: Twenty-five years before the Hazelwood Supreme Court decision, I was defending students’ right to publish on topics from a teacher strike to locker searches and letters to the editor.

25 years of Hazelwood art

“I will defend your right to publish all the way to the Supreme Court, but it will be on a serious matter, not a gossip column, and you will have covered all sides of the issues,” I repeated each school year.

After four years, I moved out of state. Returning, I tried to substitute teach in that district but was not hired. “You were teaching students things we didn’t want them to know…  …yes, the First Amendment.” That was still prior to the 1969 Tinker and Zucker decisions.

By 1977, I was advising in a different district and always gave the principal a heads up on issues. While he did not always agree with the paper’s content, he expressed his opinion to the students and never interfered with publication. The Hazelwood decision did not change that relationship. However, it did reinforce the importance of educating students on laws, ethics, rights and responsibilities. They needed to understand, not only to be responsible journalists, but also to defend their rights to sometimes hostile faculty members and others.

When a new principal dismissed my protest that he had no legal grounds to remove a story and I refused to do it, he “directed” me to pull it. Students took over, using lessons from our September discussions. As they prepared to file their case, my life became increasingly difficult. Some faculty members and coaches refused to allow the paper sold in their classrooms or to be interviewed. They also would not talk to me. District administrators regularly met with me, trying to limit the paper’s content and to remove me as adviser. It was a miserable time.

Hazelwood cast a pall on scholastic journalism. Advisers may fear loss of tenure and/or job, and allow administration to overrule them on issues. Others may lack journalism background to build and defend programs. Complicating this, administrators often have been given false or misleading information related to student media. This impacts the struggle to establish open forum status as district policy.

Another significant Hazelwood effect is the increase in self-censorship, the “we can’t print that” often heard at workshops and continuing on to college journalism classes.

Yes, Hazelwood did affect my teaching. The principal’s directive led to the 2004 Dean v Utica Community Schools U.S. Federal District Court decision. That case has been called the most important legal victory for student media since Hazelwood, and a turning point in the struggle against increasing censorship. It was a serendipitous end to my career.

Gloria Olman, MJE, is the 1992 Dow Jones News Fund Journalism Teacher of the Year, and taught at Utica High in Michigan.

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Michigan schools face loss of open forum status

Posted by on Apr 4, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Despite the Dean v. Utica court decision and despite the fact they have had histories of being forums for student expression, at least two more Michigan schools and their student media face school board rejection of that student media status.

In a number of similar instances, a common factor, according to boards and advisers, is the consulting group, NEOLA.

NEOLA released  a revised set of policies this fall for student media, 5722, which consisted of four possible selections instead of a single choice, last updated in 2000. The 2000 model NEOLA policy did not support an open forum concept for student media. NEOLA says its updated four choices have two non open forum models and two open forum ones.

Either of the two forum offerings, as NEOLA presents them, allows a district to choose which student media not to permit to be called open forums. School boards can pick and chose which of the options they want to adopt.

NEOLA says it does not advocate any of the four choices over the others.

Information reported in today’s Hometownlife.com reported otherwise for journalism students in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.

“Acting on a recommendation from NEOLA,” the policy consultant used by the district,” the publication reported, “Plymouth-Canton’s policy committee recommended changes to the policy covering school-sponsored publications and productions.”

According to hometownlife, “The new policy, if adopted, applies to “school-sponsored media” such as Perspective, 88.1, yearbooks, playbills, blogs, library journals, theatrical productions and video and audio productions. It also extends to posters, pamphlets, and school-sponsored clothing such as T-shirts.”

The online publication also reported that a Michigan law firm supported imposing the restrictive Hazelwood interpretation of how school districts can control student media.

According to the article, school officials do not plan to change “the way we do business. We have an obligation to make sure our students maintain high standards of academic achievement.”

JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission is talking to Michigan advisers and NEOLA officials for additional information.

Reports of NEOLA-led changes came from the Dexter Schools. Student media in Dexter also face hostile blog attacks.

Anyone in Michigan or other states who faces similar actions over policy reversal should let their state JEA directors and the press rights commission know the details.

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