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FAPFA reminder

Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
It’s never too late to recognize or reaffirm the  importance of First Amendment practices and policies – and be recognized for it – by applying for this year’s FAPFA award.

Until Dec. 15, that is.

This First Amendment Press Freedom Award recognizes high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers. The recognition focuses on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content without prior review.

Roughly, here’s a sample of what the judging committee looks for in determining FAPFA recipients:

  • No prior review or restraint by school faculty for all student media.
  • Student staffers make all final decisions of content for all student media.
  • Establish policies at all student media and school system levels or both as public forums for student expression.
  • Remove Internet filters for student journalism use
  • Students, advisers and administrators agree on First Amendment practices, philosophy and application across platforms.

As in previous years, schools seek FAPFA recognition by first answering questionnaires submitted by an adviser and at least one editor. Those who advance to the next level will be asked to provide separate responses from the principal and all media advisers and student editors, indicating their support of the First Amendment. In addition, semifinalists submit samples of their school and media online or printed policies that show student media applying their freedoms.

Schools recognized as meeting FAPFA criteria will be honored at the opening ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco.

First round applications are due annually before Dec. 15. Downloadable applications for 2018 are available at this link.

Even if your school received the recognition previously, you must re-apply yearly.

This is the 18th year for the award.

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When hatred speaks, we must speak back

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Exploring the First Amendment on Constitution Day

by Kristin Taylor

In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd attached an amendment to a federal spending bill to create a new national observance: Constitution Day. This amendment required public schools and government offices “to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.”

“I hope that kids understand that in this country, everything that we do in everyday life is touched upon by the Constitution of the United States,” he said in an interview. “It protects our liberties and it protects our freedom of speech. It protects our religion. It protects the freedom of speech so the newspapers can tell us the news every day.”

As a member of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee, it is especially important to me that students explore the First Amendment on Constitution Day, a critically important conversation to have in the face of today’s political climate and the rise of hate speech.

The 2017 Newseum’s State of the First Amendment survey showed an uptick in political speech this year — petition and assembly are two of the five freedoms, and almost half of those surveyed took advantage of them this year. It also showed overall agreement that a watchdog press is crucial, yet 22.5 percent of participants supported the claim that First Amendment freedom protection goes too far.

I suspect that number would be higher were the survey to happen today in the wake of Charlottesville and similar events.

Like many educators, I am troubled by the uptick in hate speech across the country and by white supremacists’ use of the term “free speech” to label rallies that are really about hatred. But as despicable as hate speech is, the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed, it is still protected by the First Amendment. It is not among the categories of unprotected speech defined by court cases over the years.

How can we face our students of color, our Jewish students or other students from marginalized groups and tell them that supporting the First Amendment means supporting the right of groups like the KKK or Nazis to spew this kind of hatred?

The American Bar Association has a good article to start the conversation. It outlines the difference between hateful speech and hateful acts using relevant court cases, and it defines libertarian and communitarian viewpoints on the issue. It also gives an example of how this played out on one college campus.

A more compelling question to ask our students is if they trust our government — and future governments — to decide what is offensive. Some European countries do, and this suggests that democratic societies can have reasonable, differing views on the matter. But others argue “the freer the speech, the stronger the democracy.”

But I think a more compelling question to ask our students is if they trust our government — and future governments — to decide what is offensive. Some European countries do, and this suggests that democratic societies can have reasonable, differing views on the matter. But others argue “the freer the speech, the stronger the democracy.”

In my experience, my more liberal students are quick to say the government should ban offensive speech, and my more conservative students believe everyone is afraid to speak because of “political correctness.”

To even begin a meaningful conversation, students first need the facts, and Constitution Day is a great time to provide them.

I recommend starting by clarifying that the First Amendment is about how the government doesn’t have a right to censor or punish speech; it has no bearing on how private citizens, companies or employers choose to react. White supremacists’ constitutional right to speak will not shield them from counter-protests, public humiliation via social media or personal consequences, such as being fired by a private employer. Similarly, social media platforms owned by private companies such as Facebook or Twitter are not public forums set up by the government, so they have the right to censor any content they deem offensive.

This leads into the second point: the danger in giving the government the power to censor is that there isn’t a common understanding of “offensive.”

In a blog post explaining why the ACLU filed a lawsuit defending provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech, James Esseks, Director of the LGBT & HIV Project, expressed the deep divide between Yiannopoulos’ hateful speech and the ACLU’s core values: “Here at the ACLU, we vehemently disagree with Mr. Yiannopoulos’ views. We work hard, every day, with the very communities he targets, to fight for equal rights and dignity for all. We recognize that his words cause grievous pain to many individuals, their families, and their loved ones.”

However, he goes on to write, “Without free speech protections, all civil rights advocacy could be shut down by the people in power, precisely because government doesn’t agree with the ideas activists advance. That was true of the civil rights fights of the past, it’s true of the movements facing pitched battles today, and it will be true of the movements of the future that are still striving to be heard.”

Many people believe speech about such issues as abortion, gender identity or sexuality are offensive, Esseks argues, and “if First Amendment protections are eroded at any level, it’s not hard to imagine the government successfully pushing one or more of those arguments in court.”

This is the heart of the First Amendment — the question of whether we trust the government to regulate our speech and define what is offensive and what is not, or if we want to retain that freedom ourselves.

This is the heart of the First Amendment — the question of whether we trust the government to regulate our speech and define what is offensive and what is not, or if we want to retain that freedom ourselves.

That said, student editorial boards are not “the government.” They can and should make ethical decisions about what to publish, and they have a right to refuse to publish hateful speech, though I would caution them to differentiate between “hate speech” and student opinions they dislike. They also have the right and the responsibility to act as ethical leaders who take informed positions in unsigned editorials.

The editorial board of the nationally award-winning Harbinger Online provides a great example of ethical leadership in response to hateful speech in their most recent editorial, “Burn the Eastonian.” The Eastonian is an underground student newspaper known for its “diabolical” and “abusive” attacks on and lies about students, teachers and administrators, and this editorial makes a compelling case to convince students to end this “most shameful tradition.”

This editorial demonstrates how punishment and censorship are seldom as powerful as more speech can be. According to the piece, this tradition has been going on for decades, despite threats of suspension, being banned from school activities or legal consequences (I assume for the libel, which is a form of unprotected speech).

These deterrents didn’t end the Eastonian last year, but the Harbinger’s passionate editorial might. By naming the problem, humanizing the victims, explaining the consequences — not just to the perpetrators if they get caught, but also to those defamed and to the reputation of the school — and providing examples of prominent students in the community who have pledged to take no part in the Eastonian, the Harbinger editorial board has shown the power of more speech in the face of hate.

Schools across the nation will celebrate Constitution Day on Monday, Sept. 18, this year.  I urge you to use this opportunity to bring to the surface difficult conversations about hate speech and the First Amendment.

In addition to the resources I’ve linked to in this blog, you should also check out the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee’s 2017 Constitution Day lessons.

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First Amendment school dialogue

Posted by on Aug 22, 2017 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Lessons, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by Jeff Kocur

Title:

First Amendment school dialogue

Description

Constitution Day, for journalists, may need to start simply with recognition of the First Amendment and the five freedoms of the First Amendment. This activity will allow your school or individual classes to have a quick discussion of the First Amendment and how your students see their lives impacted by it.

Objectives:

  • Students will recognize the five freedoms of the First Amendment
  • Students will see the impact of the First Amendment on others
  • Students will show the First Amendment’s impact on their own life.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.C Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.8 Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

Length:

One lunch period (or extend the time over the course of a week during lunches)

Materials/Resources

Five Freedoms poster (make your own or print off the attached version and make it a poster)

Five Freedoms handout

Post-it Notes in five different colors (red, blue, green, yellow and purple)

Sharpie pens

Candy

First Amendment poster

Activity/lesson Step by Step

Step 1 — Preparation

Print off the Five Freedoms poster and blow it up so that you can hang it on a wall in your lunch or commons area.

Step 2 — Student input

Have your editors sit at a table during lunches with the poster, Post-it Notes, markers and a bowl of candy. Use the Google Presentation slideshow if you have a projector available or print off the five slides and laminate them for student reference.

Invite students to see the five different freedoms of the First Amendment and to choose the freedom they use the most often. Make sure they see the example sheets for the five different freedoms.

Have them choose the color of the Post-it Note that corresponds with their selection and write their name on the Post-it Note.

Post the note on the poster you’ve hung up and offer the students a piece of candy once they’ve completed the task.

Extension

Have an interview booth set up and offer the students the opportunity to share the impact one of the freedoms of the First Amendment has had on them. Here, they could go more in depth and discuss their own story and what the protections of the First Amendment mean to them.

Student media staffs also could put together a story or video that includes the results and some of the quotes from students who provided them.

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Now’s the time to consider
applying for FAPFA recognition

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by John Bowen, MJE
As we start a new school year, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee hopes first and foremost on your list of things to do is to reaffirm your student media’s support for and adherence to the First Amendment and free expression.

Your students can also continue to recognize the  importance of First Amendment practices and policies – and be recognized for it – by applying for this year’s FAPFA award.

This First Amendment Press Freedom Award recognizes high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers. The recognition focuses on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content without prior review.

Roughly, here’s a sample of what the judging committee looks for in determining FAPFA recipients:

  • No prior review or restraint by school faculty for all student media.
  • Student staffers make all final decisions of content for all student media.
  • Establish policies at all student media and school system levels or both as public forums for student expression.
  • Remove Internet filters for student journalism use
  • Students, advisers and administrators agree on First Amendment practices, philosophy and application across platforms.

As in previous years, schools seek FAPFA recognition by first answering questionnaires submitted by an adviser and at least one editor. Those who advance to the next level will be asked to provide separate responses from the principal and all media advisers and student editors, indicating their support of the First Amendment. In addition, semifinalists submit samples of their school and media online or printed policies that show student media applying their freedoms.

Schools recognized as meeting FAPFA criteria will be honored at the opening ceremony of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco.

First round applications are due annually before Dec. 15. Downloadable applications for 2018 are available at this link. Even if your school received the recognition previously, you must re-apply yearly.

This is the 18th year for the award.

Read More

Signing on as FAPFA candidate makes powerful symbolic statement

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 2 comments

Confession: For the past 10 days, I’ve spent a good chunk of time glued to media coverage of President-elect Trump, reading about his meetings with prospective leaders and reports of cabinet appointments, cries against Hamilton and SNL on Twitter and updates about the on-again, off-again New York Times meeting.

My nervousness mounts as we transition to a new president known for his attacks on news organizations, for bullying those who ask tough questions, for threats to “open up” libel laws, for ugly rants against those who hold steady to report on the record the actions of our leaders.

And while I’ve made sure to read, donate, sign petitions and facilitate respectful dialogue, I’ve also spent the past 10 days thinking about my journalism students. What can I do? What can we do? What can they do?

As is often the case, the greatest potential for impact is within the classroom. It’s clear to me that my own students’ efforts practicing, protecting and promoting their First Amendment rights matter more than ever.

Next week, Dec. 1, 2016, is the deadline for JEA’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award. I’m glad my students will apply, and here are three reasons I urge other scholastic media programs to do the same:

[1] The FAPFA process provides an important opportunity for students to revisit the core principles of their journalism program as they tell the stories of their school community through truthful and accurate reporting using a wide range of diverse, credible sources. The editors know their publication policies inside and out, but do the other staff members? Would every student on staff be able to answer the FAPFA questions accurately? Perhaps this an opportunity for editors to conduct a mini-lesson to educate or review with rookies some “What happens if …” scenarios.

[2] The possibility of recognition as a First Amendment school is another way to increase awareness in the school and throughout the community. Even if school administrators are supportive of students’ free expression rights both in theory and in practice, it’s likely there are community members who are less aware of what it means for students to make all content decisions free of administrative censorship. It’s another chance to spread the word about what the First Amendment means and why it matters.

Remember, 39 percent of Americans could not name even one of the five freedoms.

Can FAPFA recognition serve to make all stakeholders better understand the educational significance of providing students with an outlet for free expression and the long-term benefits of empowering students with the responsibility of the decision-making process?

Celebrating a school’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award recognition can play a role in the case for scholastic media curriculum development and the long game in protecting both First Amendment education and scholastic journalism specifically.

[3] Signing on as a FAPFA candidate makes a powerful symbolic statement at a crucial time.

My own students have protection from California Ed Code 48907, but they’ll still be using the opportunity JEA’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award provides. In other words, they’ll apply for the award because they can. It’s a chance to speak up and speak out for why that freedom of expression matters so much, and a chance to draw attention to states where students don’t have that right.

Discussing the questions on the first-round FAPFA form reminds students that not every student media program is lucky enough to operate in a student-led environment with journalists empowered by the critical thinking experience of their decision-making process. It puts things in perspective. It emboldens them to use the tools at their disposal, creatively and positively, to fight the good fight. It draws attention to the injustice in schools and states with administrative censorship and helps increase efforts toward press rights legislation.

Editors can proudly share their efforts in attempt to leverage that social currency and widen the scope of attention for First Amendment freedoms just when the New Voices movement — and new White House administration — need it most.

 

by Sarah Nichols, MJE

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