Oct. 13, 1987 marked the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier arguments that ultimately granted administrators the right to control content of high school media in limited situations.
Oct. 13, 2014 marks a time when 19 journalism organizations joined together to urge national groups of administrators and school boards to openly disavow actions of the Neshaminy (Pa.) Board of Education that even went beyond the constraints of Hazelwood in controlling content and punishing student journalists.
“In what we hope will be a watershed event in curing America of the worst excesses of the Hazelwood era,” SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte wrote to the Advisory Committee of the SPLC, “19 of the nation’s leading journalism organizations — including SPJ, JEA, CMA and the American Society of News Editors — co-signed an SPLC-authored letter distributed today to the nation’s leading school-administrator organizations, urging them to distance themselves from and to publicly disavow the retaliatory behavior of school administrators in Neshaminy, Pa., who are punishing student journalists for refusing to use the offensive name of the schools’ mascot.”
The joint statement can be read here.
Part of the statement pointed directly to the Hazelwood decision’s involvement: “This is a level of authority even beyond the outermost limit the Supreme Court recognized in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, to say nothing of the fact that Pennsylvania law repudiates the Hazelwood standard.”
JEA’a Press Rights Committee and the SPLC had paired on a statement earlier this month condemning Neshaminy board actions punishing the student paper, the adviser and editor.
JEA also commented on the joint statement.
Leading a scholastic media staff in the shadow of Hazelwood
by Chris Waugaman, MJE
A lack of trust can destroy scholastic journalism. We have seen it in a number of recent cases.
The scenario involves a student publication and a disgruntled administration. The cause of this tension can come from a variety of places, but in the end what has been broken is trust.
After this point, the battle of what you can and cannot censor in prior review becomes the first battle in an all out war. Sometimes it is unavoidable. But if there is a way to stop this from happening it begins with trust.
As we all head back to school, look for some new content in the next week:
• An article focusing who who owns scholastic media content and choices to establish best approach for students
• An article discussing points of questions involving yearbook ethics
• A first look at a Policy Package to will help staffs decide what they want as the best editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual
• Continued access to our ongoing columns on journalism pedagogy, FOIA, broadcast legal and ethical issues, news literacy and more Making a Difference reporting
• Our annual Constitution Day lessons and activities
• In the meantime, check out these major points from the press rights commission:
• Takedown demands guidelines
• The Panic Button means of reporting censorship
• Our Press Rights Minute
• JEA’s position prior review
• JEA’s existing model editorial policy and support
• Online, photo and yearbook ethical statements
• First Amendment Press Freedom Award application
• A teacher’s kit for curing Hazelwood
• Our Foundations series for scholastic journalism
Something you would like us to report? Let us know.
Editor’s note: The following is the introduction to Mary Beth Tinker at Whitney High School in Rocklin, Calif. It is used here with permission in an effort to reach as many people as possible.
Kavleen Singh, co-editor-in-chief, The Roar introduced Mary Beth Tinker and the Tinker tour April 1 at Whitney High School.
Here is her speech:
We listen, we read, and we speak. How do we do all of that? With words. The string of sounds and syllables we convert into meaningful messages is the most prominent outlet in expressing one’s thoughts.
There’s great power that comes with the mastery of words, and it can cause a massive uproar. Just over the past few years, Egypt and Tunisia incited a revolution that was fueled through Twitter and Facebook. Both social media outlets are traversed with words. But here in the United States, we have a protection for words that many countries unfortunately do not. We have the First Amendment.
It is through the 45 words of the First Amendment that we are granted a voice in society, free to speak our minds and participate in a melting pot of diverse opinions and clash constructively with others. There have been challenges throughout history regarding the First Amendment, and few are more prominent than that of the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines. As a freshman in Journalism I class, I learned about the Tinker case and how the courage of Mary Beth Tinker led to the high court setting a precedent that would forever impact students. In the decision, Justice Abe Fortas said, “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
Now, as I stand before you as editor-in-chief and a much more experienced journalist, I can better appreciate that protection. In my four years with Whitney High Student Media, we have reported on two teacher arrests, bullying, online privacy, struggles with sexuality, smoking, body image, suicide, depression and a variety of other stories important to our readers. I am grateful for the freedom of speech and of the press afforded to us by the First Amendment and the California Educational Code that supports us in this responsibility. I also am grateful to have the resources available from the Student Press Law Center and to know that outside the gates of our school, other journalists are working just as hard to tell the important stories at their school — stories that take courage to find, hear, and deliver with fairness and accuracy to help improve communities and their audiences all around the world.
It is my honor and absolute pleasure to present free speech activist Mary Beth Tinker.
- Kavleen Singh, co-editor-in-chief, The Roar
Whitney High Student Media; Rocklin, Calif.
Journalism students at Whitney also published Storify coverage of the Tinker Tour here. Consider using Storify as another way to report events. News coverage can be read here and photo gallery coverage here .
The Tinker Tour also stopped April 2 at Monta Vista High School, and included a panel discussion with Tinker, Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center and Nick Ferentinos, retired adviser whose students won a post-Hazelwood censorship battle. Two Monta Vista students who successfully defied a subpoena earlier this year using the California shield laws also spoke.
Tomorrow, April 3, journalism students will live stream the Tinker Tour assembly from Convent of the Sacred Heart HS in San Francisco at 10:45 PDT. At the end, student journalists will take questions hashtagged #TinkerTourSF via Twitter.
Coverage can be accessed here
For those of you in PRIVATE SCHOOLS, this is your chance to get in questions specific to your situation. (But everyone else should feel free to logon, too
For those in PRIVATE SCHOOLS, this is your chance to get in questions specific to your situation.
The newspaper staff of a small school sought me out at a national journalism conference a few years ago. Despite an informal of publishing with just the consultation of the adviser, the school’s principal now wanted to review the paper before it went to bed.
Although I didn’t agree with the principal’s decision, I knew why she put the new policy in place. I had already heard the story through the journalism teachers’ grapevine, but I had the students tell me their version.
“She said she doesn’t trust us any more.”
Fifth in a series
The post on building a climate of trust is the fifth in a series of blogs that will run each Wednesday. Topics discussed, in order, will include FOIA, news literacy, journalism education, positive relationships with administrators, private school journalism, prior review and Making a Difference. We hope you will enjoy them. If you have other topics you feel we should address, please let us know.
There was a trail of bad decisions on the part of the staff. The editors knew the package they were creating was around a hot-button issue (It doesn’t matter if it was about student drinking, smoking pot or engaging in unsafe sex — it’s all the same to some adults.), but instead of writing a fact-checked, balanced story, the editors decided to deliberately skew the student poll to make student engagement worse in the activity look worse than it actually was.
In large graphs. On the front page. Above the fold.
Their reasoning: “We knew there was a problem, and we wanted to get the word out. It seemed like a good idea.”
The staff broke some of the cardinal rules of journalism — what I call the ABCs; Be Accurate, Be Balanced, Be Clear.
In breaking those rules, the editors didn’t just break their trust with their principal but with their readers. Every story now looked suspect. Was the author “just trying to get a point across,” or was he accurately telling the truth in a balanced manner?
There was little balm I could offer the staff. Loss of trust is a big wound, and it takes time to heal. The staff would have to be extra diligent in its coverage from this time forward. All staffers wouldn’t just have to get their facts straight, but their spelling, grammar and syntax would have to be flawless.
I encouraged the staff to continue to take on important stories and show it had the skills and the good judgment to cover hard stories responsibly. The goal would be to these stories to rebuild trust with the administration and readers.
Then in six months, they could go back to the principal and show her proof that the staff was deserving of trust. If that didn’t work, then they should try it again in a year, in 18 months — as long as it took.
“Make it your mission,” I said. “Provide responsible journalism with no prior review. Be prepared that it may take time, but make it your legacy — even if it doesn’t happen this year.”
Should students be allowed to make mistakes? Certainly. Does the coach go on the field with a football player during the game to “make sure” he doesn’t drop the ball? Never. But the fact is, private schools and schools in Hazelwood states face a higher scrutiny.
With a strong foundation of trust and thoughtful storytelling, staffs and administrators can build a win-win policy. Together.
It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a private or religious school or one in a Hazelwood state — you can have a publication with high-quality journalism that speaks to your students. In a future post, we’ll talk about strategies you can use when your principal or board digs in its heels in because it wants to “protect” the community.