by John Bowen
The Journalism Education Association and the Student Press Law Center urge state and regional journalism organizations to make a national statement that nothing educational or legitimate comes from censorship stemming from the 1988 U. S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision.
JEA’s board of directors voted unanimously to endorse a resolution by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication that said, in part, “the Hazelwood level of control over student journalistic speech is clearly incompatible with the effective teaching of journalistic skills, values and practices, and that institutions of secondary and postsecondary education should forswear reliance on Hazelwood as a source of authority for the governance of student and educator expression.”
JEA’s resolution differed slightly from the AEJMC model as it focused more directly on scholastic journalism.
“This resolution is important for two reasons,” JEA president Mark Newton said. “Anytime we can partner with our college colleagues in AEJMC it shows incredible solidarity. And, most importantly, as the leading scholastic journalism education group, we must stand tall and scream at injustice. Make no mistake, the Hazelwood Supreme Court decision and its subsequent interpretations are an injustice to education, students, advisers and the First Amendment.”
The pendulum simply has swung too far toward heavy-handed school control following 25 years of failed experimentation with the Hazelwood level of censorship authority, SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte said.
“Hazelwood has proven itself to be legally unsound, educationally counterproductive, and as a practical matter entirely unnecessary,” LoMonte said, ”since schools from California to Massachusetts have functioned just fine for decades without it.”
JEA’s resolution states, in part, “No legitimate pedagogical purpose is served by the censorship of student journalism on the grounds that it reflects unflatteringly on school policies and programs, that it candidly discusses sensitive social and political issues, or that it voices opinions challenging to majority views on matters of public concern. The censorship of such speech, or the punishment of media advisers based on that speech, is detrimental to effective learning and teaching, and it cannot be justified by reference to “pedagogical concerns.”
“The educators who know journalism best are united in their conviction school censorship authority should never be used to discourage students from engaging on the social and political issues that concern them, including issues involving the quality of their own educational experience,” LoMonte said. ”That is a message that the courts cannot ignore when the next Hazelwood censorship case invariably arises. What constitutes a “legitimate pedagogical concern” that justifies school censorship should be decided be educators, not school attorneys, and the JEA resolution sends the unmistakable message that censoring for purposes of P.R. image control is educationally indefensible.”
What you can do Here’s what JEA and its Scholastic Press Rights Commission would like you to do: • Study the AEJMC and JEA resolutions attached to this packet • Ask questions as needed by emailing email@example.com • Prepare a statement showing your organization’s endorsement of JEA’s resolution and publish it • Notify JEA and the SPRC of your endorsement, and provide us with a copy of the resolution
“Our goal is to support journalism advisers and students with the full voice of the Kettle Moraine Press Association,” their resolution states in part. “In doing so, the KEMPA Board of Directors unanimously endorses the JEA Resolution: Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier anniversary/First Amendment and censorship authority and its position that the censorship of speech which candidly discusses social and political issues in school publications and the punishment of media advisers based on that exercise of free speech is detrimental to effective learning and teaching.”
JEA’s and the Scholastic Press Rights Comission’s goal is simple: We want to have all 50 states make a statement that can be cited by courts as consensus of journalism educators as to what is a legitimate educational reason for censorship – not the random fears Hazelwood generates.
Although JEA has set no deadline for state endorsements, SPRC chair John Bowen urged states to act as quickly as possible.
“The sooner we can point to agreement with these statements,” Bowen said, “the more likelihood we have of making a usable statement for courts and others. Having this in hand before school begins in August would be a real plus.”
Just like any big event — you remember where you were or what you were doing. Those who were advising scholastic media when the Supreme Court announced Hazelwood v.Kuhlmeier 25 years ago probably can recall their reactions — and maybe those of their administrators as well.
My own recollection: The principal, a fairly supportive guy, motioned me into his office. “Have you heard the decision?” Of course I knew what he meant. “Yes.” I smiled and added, “But there’s no room for you to moved your desk up to the X-Ray office.”
Luckily the St. Charles High School student newspaper, the X-Ray, didn’t face prior review. There had been some sticky moments in the past, but I got along well with this principal and his successor a short time later.
Not everyone had such smooth sailing. One way to find out what happened then and what changes followed was to talk to advisers who were in the classroom and student media newsroom both before Jan. 13, 1988 and after. What impact did they see from that landmark Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision? What difference did it make to them and their students and others they observed?
That’s why the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State took advantage of the Fall 2012 JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in San Antonio to interview four such advisers who were attending. All taught at that time, and one is still in the classroom while the other three are retired but very much involved with high school media as mentors in the Journalism Education Association program and press association board members.
Gary Lindsay, JEA regional director recently retired from Kennedy High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was only in his second year of advising when Hazelwood came about.
Janet Levin, adviser in 1988 and today at John Hersey High School, Arlington Heights, Ill., remembers the local media reaching her when she didn’t yet know the decision.
At Homestead High School in Cupertino, Cal., Nick Ferentinos’ principal almost immediately took what he saw as an opportunity to remove an article in progress about an HIV-positive student.
Wayne Dunn, president of the Ohio Scholastic Media Association and JEA mentor, had been advising four years at Lebanon (Ohio) High School in 1988.
See what they had to say. Did Hazelwood have the kind of impact journalism educators feared in 1988? According to these four advisers who have seen the before and after, yes, the chilling effect on student journalists has indeed made a difference, and it hasn’t been a good one.
In a surveytaken at the San Antonio JEA and NSPA convention last November, students and advisers reported censorship was alive and well in America’s schools. Forty-two percent of students and 41 percent of advisers responding said school officials had told them not to publish or air something. Fifty-four percent of students indicated a school official reviewed student media content before publication or airing.
Both groups also incited self-censorship was an issue, prompting SPLC director Frank LoMonte to lay some of the blame for situations like these on the 1988 Hazelwood decision.
“Schools will continue to be disempowering places where no meaningful discussion of civic issues takes place so long as Hazelwood censorship is practiced,” he said.
Fortunately, some schools can and do tackle important issues and are not limited by misguided administrators. Others can learn from their efforts.
One example where students tackled substantive issues is the Verde at Palo Alto High School, in California, where they reported on a “rape culture” at their school. Another is the Triangle of Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana, which published on sexual assault. Both stories reinforce the importance of issues teens face as seen in events in Steubenville, Ohio, and Saratoga, California.
Below are links to these students’ reporting, and related stories. These stories are models of reporting student media is capable of when communities, school administrators and advisers support critical thinking and student decision making.
In the next several weeks, we will also report other efforts not only to limit Hazelwood’s impact but also to recognize schools around the country through our Make a Difference through substantive reporting project.
The SPLC developed its Cure Hazelwood website to help combat the effects of that 1988 Supreme Court decision, and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Association prepared its Seeking a Cure for the Hazelwood Blues and Teacher’s Kit for Curing Hazelwoodmaterials to educate all parties about the lack of education value in prior review and restrict by school officials. A myriad of essential curriculum materials and information about fighting Hazelwood exists on the Scholastic Press Rights Commission website.
For more information about the Verde and Triangle stories, see below:
They should remind us that good people involved in all aspects of scholastic education, including administrators, still recognize and fight for what is right. The links should also remind us the fight continues no matter how long and hard we have fought it.
Lastly, we should take note of why the fight is not over and whywe must continue to support those most affected as they strive to live out our democratic heritage.
Perhaps it is fitting these four schools are this year’s recipients of the First Amendment Press Freedom Award.
After all, it is the 25th anniversary of the Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier decision, and Hazelwood East, it can be argued, sits in their backyards. In Missouri.
Even without a state law to support them, four St. Louis-area schools showed they actively support and protect First Amendment rights of their students and teachers as they earned the FAPFA recognition.
The 1988 U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision gave administrators the right to censor student media and more, under certain conditions.
Francis Howell High School and Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Mo., Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo., and Lafayette High School, Wildwood, Mo., will be recognized at the opening keynote at the JEA/NSPA High School Journalism Convention in San Francisco April 25.
This award has been co-sponsored for 13 years by the Journalism Education Association, National Scholastic Press Association and the Quill and Scroll Society.
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.
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 editorial policies.
First round applications are due annually by Dec. 1. Downloadable applications for 2014 will be available on the JEA website in the fall.
Way to show everyone the road to the First Amendment, Missouri.