Looking for discussion starters for the end of school?
For the latest on three nationally ongoing censorship issues, check out:
Fond du Lac, WI
• Neshaminy board tables controversial publication policy changes
• Controversial Neshaminy policy going back to committee
• Why forcing a student newspaper to use a racial slur is wrong on so many levels
• Playwickian staff implores Neshaminy board not to adopt policy preventing student newspaper from banning use of ‘Redskin’ mascot name
Heber City, UT
• Altered yearbook photos at Utah high school spark controversy
• School alters girls’ yearbook photos to cover bare skin, is not sorry
• Photoshop a yearbook photo neckline, and you tell a teen to be someone else
• ‘Shoulder-shaming’ girls at Utah high school: Why the big coverup?
• Students say altered yearbook photos meant to shame them (see related stories)
In related coverage of journalism ethics now and in the fall, the question of how altering pictures in student media affects journalism as a whole and creates the potential of multiple ethical lessons.
• Editing yearbook photos not uncommon, says printer
by Tom Gayda
Rights vs. responsibilities. Or, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. These are the phrases to keep in mind when living in a social media world.
Putting the First Amendment in action is our right, but with that right is the need to be responsible. There are many things a person can say, but sometimes those things aren’t always smart.
Even adults have to be careful. I may not agree with a decision made professionally, but to call out my boss or colleague and question his or her integrity might not be wise. My job doesn’t owe me my First Amendment rights the way sitting on my back porch talking to a friend does. Sure, I can say what I want, but if I want employment I might want to be careful. My boss probably isn’t as interested in my right to free speech when it knocks him or his company.
A student encounters similar situations. Perhaps not even that bad. Say a math student gets a poor grade on a test. Math student takes to Twitter and says the math teacher doesn’t know how to teach. Not really the worst thing a kid could say but if the math teacher hears about the comment, extra credit opportunities might dry up pretty fast. If the same math student calls the teacher a more colorful name the punishment might just be a little harsher.
Not that long ago we actually lived in a world where a lot of things we were thinking were left unsaid, but now the majority of us our gridded up we can’t go too many minutes without sharing something with someone.
The best thing to do is think first. Does your comment add something to life? Is it necessary someone see what you are thinking? Sometimes it might be wiser to act responsibly and keep a comment or two private.
Everyone is working their way through how to speak their mind and be responsible. And while we are lucky to have the First Amendment to protect us, it is important to keep in mind that our words matter whether they are protected or not.
A committee with representatives from the Journalism Education Association, National Scholastic Press Association and Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society is pleased to announce the six winners of the 2014 First Amendment Press Freedom Award.
The award recognizes high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content.
As in previous years, schools competed for the title by first answering questionnaires submitted by an adviser and at least one editor; those who advanced to the next level were asked to provide responses from the principal and all publications advisers and student editors, indicating their support of the five freedoms. In addition, semifinalists submitted samples of their printed policies.
2014 First Amendment Press Freedom Award winners are as follows:
Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, San Francisco, Calif.
Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Mo.
Kirkwood High School. Kirkwood, Mo.
Mountlake Terrace High School, Mountlake Terrace, Wash.
North Central High School, Indianapolis, Ind.
Townsend Harris High School, Flushing, N.Y.
These schools will be honored April 10 at the opening ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Diego.
Two of the schools are first-time recipients: North Central High School and Convent of the Sacred Heart, which is not only a first-time awardee, but the second private school to ever be recognized.
“We are proud of each of these schools for supporting their student media as they practice critical life skills like decision making, critical thinking and civic engagement while informing their audiences,” JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission chairman said.
This is the 14th year for the recognition. The award, which began with an emphasis on student publications, was originally titled Let Freedom Ring, and later expanded to include the other freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
First round applications are due annually by Dec. 1. Downloadable applications for 2015 will be available on the JEA website in the fall.
A researcher at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, surveyed public high school administrators about their First Amendment knowledge this fall and discovered that administrators may, in fact, know more than they think about the First Amendment.
However, Audrey Wagstaff Cunningham, assistant professor, said when tested on their knowledge of specific attributes, the majority did not have sufficient knowledge about the reporting of minors, nor did they understand the limits of administrative control over seemingly “inappropriate” content produced in a student publication.
Finally, many of the administrators surveyed did not recognize the public forum status available to student publications. This suggests that administrators may not fully understand the free speech rights of students as defined in major cases like Tinker v. Des Moines.
Likewise, if they know about Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, they may apply their knowledge incorrectly. In addition, administrators who are less knowledgeable about the First Amendment as it pertains to students are also more likely to try to censor students’ work.
“Many scholars and educators interested in scholastic journalism,” Cunningham writes in the paper, “have suggested that the censorship problem begins in schools, and is fueled by poor understanding of First Amendment freedoms (Student Press Law Center, 2006). This study, despite several findings being statistically insignificant, is meant to help illuminate the path to better understanding the administrative censorship phenomenon.”
You can download Wagstaff-Cunningham’s paper, which was accepted by JEA’s Certification Commission as her MJE requirement, here.
by Jan Ewell
Permission granted to use at will for non-commercial purposes
The Bill of Rights and Schools
The First Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, became the law of the land in 1791, but 216 years later in 2007 Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in Morse v. Frederick, “As originally understood, the Constitution does not afford students a right to free speech in public school.”
Thomas was an originalist, one who interprets the Constitution and the Bill of Rights according to what the Founding Fathers—the original authors—intended. Public education was virtually non-existent at the time. Thomas says the Founding Fathers did not intend the Bill of Rights to limit the power of schools and were not specifically concerned about the rights of public school students.
Fortunately for the student press, the other eight justices instead debated which First Amendment rights students should have. They looked at past court decisions for precedents, that is, earlier rulings by the court, that set a rule or pattern for deciding similar cases.
The precedent for almost 100 years was the 1833 Supreme Court decision in Barron v. Baltimore, which said the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government. According to Barron, “Congress shall make no law” meant the United States government—Congress–could not make laws “abridging freedom of speech, or of the press.” States and cities—and school districts–could and did make laws that established religions, and abridged free speech and freedom the press, and limited the right to assemble. “A local school teacher was not Congress within the meaning of `Congress shall make no law,’” said David L. Hudson Jr. in Let the Students Speak! Only the federal government was forbidden to make such laws.
The Supreme Court began to apply the Bill of Rights to the laws and practices of states starting in 1925 with Gitlow v. New York. By 1965, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the court indicated that all forms of government—not just the federal government–were restrained by the Constitution and its amendments, including the Bill of Rights. Public schools are a form of government.