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Clicking ‘like’ on Facebook

Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

By HL Hall

Clicking “like” on Facebook is not protected by the First Amendment, according to U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson’s April 30 ruling in Bland v. Roberts in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia.

Deciding what clicking “like” means played a role in Jackson’s decision in a case involving six individuals who said Hampton Sheriff B. J. Roberts fired them for supporting an opponent in his 2009 re-election bid. The workers sued claiming heir First Amendment rights had been violated. At least one of the workers had “liked” the Facebook page of Jim Adams, Roberts’ opponent.

Judge Jackson said clicking “like” was not expressive speech since those clicking “like” are not actually writing a statement to be posted on Facebook. Jackson did acknowledge that other courts have ruled that the First Amendment protects Facebook posts, but he said in those cases the posts were actual messages, not just someone clicking “like.”

Jackson also said he did consider whether the employees clicking “like” was a reason for them being fired, but he said that became a moot point when he decided “liking” someone or something isn’t protected speech.

An attorney for one of the fired workers said he would likely appeal the ruling.

Does this ruling have any impact for student journalists and advisers?

Virginia is in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court, so it the ruling probably applies to all states (Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia) in that district. The decision could also be a precedent for decisions in other states. It might be wise for those in that circuit for the time being to assume that clicking “like” on Facebook is not constitutionally protected.

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Standing up for what is right in Missouri: stopping SB54

Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

So, Friday was a good day.

What Friday demonstrated was that when an injustice – and I know that sounds huge and the slightest bit pretentious – is done, some people are still willing to stand up and do what is right. And the silence from the sponsor of the bill and the complete about face by the governor should tell you all you need to know about this law.

The outcry from teachers – and particularly journalism advisers – in Missouri was a bit of a sight to behold.

Honestly, I think Missouri teachers’ reaction to this bill may have been a reaction to things that have happened in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana over the past year, where teachers have been put in the crosshairs by politicians. And much like in those cases – particularly Wisconsin and Ohio – politicians have learned a lesson the hard way: do not mess with teachers.

Because while we are impossibly busy preparing your – and our – children to be the leaders of tomorrow, we will absolutely, positively no longer stand for this.

Even more impressive was the reaction of students.

Cameron Carlson, a former student at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo., created a Facebook group in the days proceeding its signing into law. In less than a month, it has almost 1,000 members.

Devan Coggan, a recent graduate of Kirkwood HS wrote a letter to her local representative detailing her thoughts on the matter, after posting it on her Tumblr blog.

Students from four high schools across Missouri participated in a Google+ hangout with Aurora Meyer, from the Missouri State Teachers Association, as part of a press conference for their coverage of the issue.

And I can’t even begin to count the number of tweets sent on this matter.

So, lessons to be learned?

First, is that the First Amendment and social media are powerful tools. By taking to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, opponents of SB54 used a little bit of social media jujitsu to help propel this law back in Sen. Jane Cunningham’s face. The irony of all this makes me smile.

Teachers in all states must be vigilant of what is going on in their state legislatures. I heard about this bill in the middle of July, shortly before Gov. Jay Nixon signed it into law. In the current climate of what is going on in state legislatures across the country, teachers (and their unions, see below) need to be on the ball and prepared to act quickly and decisively when they are threatened, no matter the type of law.

Union members need to hold union leadership accountable. MSTA stepped up to the plate and did its job to represent its members by filing the suit that led to the the injunction against SB54. MNEA did so to a lesser extent, trying to work with Sen. Jane Cunningham, who crafted the law. Honestly though, the offending portions of SB54 shouldn’t have ever made it out of committee, much less to the governor’s desk. There have been several things MNEA has helped stall or kill that many teachers would argue were more important than this bill, but missing this patently ridiculous and obviously unconstitutional portion of this law is a big miss.

Finally, educators – and journalism educators in particular – deserve leadership from the media. All too many of the state’s papers weighed in on SB54 after the heavy work was done.

I appreciate the support of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Joseph News-Press and any other media outlets that have weighed in, but editorial pages are a place to lead. At least that’s what I teach my students.

The fact the state’s major papers maintained radio silence over the course of most of August is shameful, particularly on a First Amendment issue.

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Missouri SB54 a slap at teacher professionalism

Posted by on Aug 21, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Matt Schott

A slap in the face. And an unexpected one at that.

When I first read SB54, that was my reaction. And not a slap to my First Amendment rights, either, though I believe those rights are threatened by the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act and informs much of the anger over this from journalism educators.

No, to me, this was a slap in the face to my professionalism, my credibility, my trustworthiness.

In any profession, these are the qualities people try to build and nurture. With a swipe of his pen, what Gov. Jay Nixon (and to an extent State Sen. Jane Cunningham, who wrote the bill) did was wipe away those three things which I hold dear. Because what he did was cast teachers into the same category of respect generally reserved for criminals.

SB54 essentially said teachers were not fit to maintain a professional relationship with the students whom they have taken great steps to build and nurture relationships, no matter the medium. While I consider myself to be well-versed in the field of journalism, I consider myself (and most good educators) to be better in the field of connecting with students where they are most comfortable. Good educators work to make sure they have positive relationships with their students. More than anything, it is what makes us good educators.

What Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have evidently forgotten is that private conversations happen all the time at school. On  Aug. 16, a Tuesday, I had no fewer than six private conversations with students. All of them were about things relating to education. Some were simple, like asking for the definition of a word. Others about projects that have been assigned.

These two public servants obviously don’t know much about the public they serve. They should watch this. Facebook is the most trafficked site on the Internet and high school students have driven that traffic almost since the site’s inception. As it says on the linked video: “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have ensured Missouri students will “do social media” worse than students in the rest of the nation.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, by not allowing educators to teach and model what a positive social media presence looks like, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have made it that much harder for Missouri students to succeed in the digital marketplace.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have taken away an avenue – sometimes the only avenue they feel safe in – for troubled students to communicate with someone they trust: their teacher.

Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham did have some successes with this bill, perhaps in spite of themselves.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have drawn the attention of the nation to the educational practices in our state and shown the nation that they, at least, don’t believe in the job Missouri teachers are doing. Thanks for your support.

By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have succeeded in making a difficult job more difficult. Not being able to communicate with trusted students in a medium they feel comfortable in inhibits the learning and success of all students. Thanks for the extra work, we need more of it.

And finally, by seeking to take educators out of the social media equation in Missouri, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have angered a very vocal and active political force: educators. Make no mistake, teachers in Missouri are upset (to use a school appropriate word) by this law. Teachers in Missouri are conferring about this law. And soon, very soon, I hope teachers in Missouri will be working with wonderful organizations like the Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, to battle and overturn this ill-informed, poorly written and insulting law. You’re welcome. By giving the educators of Missouri a little bit more work to do, we’ll help you learn through experience and hopefully, as you reflect upon this once SB54 is overturned, you’ll have learned something.

All in a day’s work.

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Noteworthy information 7

Posted by on Aug 21, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

If it looks and acts like a cheerleader, it shouldn’t end up being a student news outlet.

At least that’s the view presented in the Center for Scholastic Journalism’s latest post, one in a series of decision-making choices about possible roles for student media. Writing a mission statement using this process is something students should consider as they approach each new year.

“So, in developing the mission and applying it through the year,” the post states, “consider putting ‘building morale’ a ways down the list of media role priorities — not because you’re going to be the voice of gloom and doom and whining, but because you want to tell as many sides as you can of your stories and not just stress the positives.”

A morale builder also should not be how your news publication’s social media comes across.

This particular role seems to be growing with the use of Twitter and Facebook to advertise the student medium and its content.

As we examine our potential roles, in “legacy” as well as “new” media, we need to discuss with our students whether the PR and news roles need to be clearly separated in any use of social media.

I worry that scholastic media is becoming more and more PR-oriented. One, I have concerns that combining the roles makes it difficult for our audiences to tell the difference between promotion and news; and, two, not clearly separating the two roles works against scholastic media when coverage of controversial or sensitive subjects are reported.

For another take on the topic, see a Poynter Making Sense of News piece published Aug. 20 (scroll down one or two posts).

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Team McCandless

Posted by on Mar 15, 2010 in Blog, News | 0 comments

Wentzville Board Meeting
So over the past six months or so, the students and teacher at Timberland High School in Wentzville, Mo. have undergone some terrible tribulations at the hands of their administrators. Stories pulled in multiple issues, oversight of the yearbook, panel photos pulled from said yearbook in March, when there is little that can be done to change them in the book. The list of transgressions has been well publicized.

And that last sentence is the silver lining in this awful cloud of censorship. The students and parents of adviser Cathy McCandless have responded admirably and forcefully to this situation.

At last check, their Facebook group, Team McCandless, has 585 members. A Wentzville parent has also created a blog – www.stop-ths-censorship.blogspot.com – that catalogs much of the grievances of parents and publication students as well as encouraging people to action.

In meetings with administration, yearbook students are starting to see some victories in their discussions with the administrators.

And perhaps most important, they are taking their arguments where they can have impact: the board of education. This Thursday, a group of parents, students, alumni and teachers will be attending the Wentzville Board of Education – me included – in order to let the decision makers know their thoughts about what has transpired. I’m hoping to have thoughts on this site that evening, as well as perhaps some photos. One of the members of the Student Partners, Ted Noelker, will also be attending this event.

While I know this has been a terribly trying, taxing time for Cathy, it has to be heart warming to know she’s done a good job teaching her students about their rights as student journalists and, in turn, her students have taught their parents enough about their rights to, hopefully, do something about it.

After talking with Cathy, I know she’s somewhat hopeful the tide may turn back towards her students favor. Hopefully, a big showing on Thursday will help sway the board of education and district administrators to see reason.

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