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Censorship strikes Playwickian again

Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Jane Blystone
PA School Press Association president

sprclogoToday was one of many days I have talked to students from Neshaminy High School in eastern Pa. over the past three years regarding censorship of their school newspaper, the Playwickian. Once again censorship is lifting its ugly head under different student editors and has now escalated to compelling students to write content the principal wants published, not stories students have agreed to write and publish.

The issue:

One student editor wanted to publish a story in this month’s issue about a pageant for guys in said school called Mr. R—— (the pejorative name for Native Americans) that took place in in March. The majority of the editorial board did not agree to using the pejorative term. As per a 2014 agreement after a national blowout about the pejorative term, students editors have the right to redact the term or not run the story. The student editor, who reported on the story was not satisfied that that word would be redacted, so took the issue up with the principal. The principal demanded it be run unredacted. The editors chose to post the story with the term redacted.

A result:

The adviser resigned effective at the end of this year because she refuses to force student journalists to print the word in their publication as the principal has directed (compelling content)  and the website has been locked down today by the principal (censorship) as you can see here: http://playwickian.com/

How can you and your student journalists help? Simply write letters to these media outlets in their area supporting student rights to choose content and right to edit as per their printed policy.

http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/

http://levittownnow.com/

http://www.theintell.com/

Here is the principal’s email as well.
RMCGEE@neshaminy.org

Also post thoughts and support on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #freetheplaywickian. Their Twitter acct. and Facebook acct. are not under auspice of the school but private accounts students own.  If you go to these sites, you can also see what the students have posted about the incident. You can also post, share  and retweet at these social media sites to support them.

https://www.facebook.com/playwickia/?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/search?q=The%20Playwickian&src=typd

Yes, they have contacted JEA SPRC, the SPLC and others. They are doing all the RIGHT things for support. Now I am asking you to help. These students are still fighting this many years-long battle to choose what they will and will not publish without interference from administration, as per our state code regarding Student Free Expression.

 

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Students support peers across the country in censorship case

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Part four of a series – Making a Difference

In celebration of the anniversary of the February 25, 1969, United States Supreme Court Tinker vs. Des Moines, the JEA SPRC Making a Difference project salutes the The Foothill Dragon Press at Foothill Technology High School in Ventura (Calif.) for their support of fellow student journalists across country at the Playwickian, at Neshaminy High School (Pa.).

When student journalists at The Foothill Dragon Press learned that their peers were being censored, they posted this editorial on their website, entitled When one student is threatened, we are all threatened.

Their adviser, Melissa Wantz wrote “When the Neshaminy School Board in Langhorne, Pa., decided to rewrite district policy to prevent student editors at Neshaminy High School from prohibiting the word “Redskin” — a term the newspaper voted to ban from its pages — my students decided to use their editorial power to denounce the school board and to support the Playwickian newspaper staff. The day after the editorial was published online at www.foothilldragonpress.org, it was quoted or linked on social media, email and in an article published by the Student Press Law Center.

After researching and writing this editorial over a weekend, The Foothill Dragon Press journalists suddenly understood what it might feel like to lose their freedom and how they have to be prepared to fight for the First Amendment. The staff of the Playwickian expressed gratitude for The Foothill Dragon Press support by using their free speech rights to publicly comment beneath the online editorial.”

In September, the Playwickian staff had funds removed from their publishing account and one of their editors, Gillian McGoldrick, was suspended from her editorial position for a month. The adviser, Tara Huber was also suspended for three days without pay, because she did not censor her students for their practice of banning the term “Redskin” in their newspaper.

Once again the Foothills Dragon staff rose to the challenge and started an independent, national fundraiser to help pay for the publishing funds removed and the three days of pay the teacher lost as a result of the administrative discipline. That fundraiser surpassed the $2,400 in two days and reached a total of $6,810 to support their peers.

Like Mary Beth Tinker and John Tinker, these student journalists in Ventura, Calif., have made a national difference along with their peers in Langhorne, Pa. via scholastic journalism.

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19 journalism groups urge
administrator organizations to disavow
Neshaminy board punishment of paper, adviser and editor

Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogoOct. 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.

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JEA-SPRC, SPLC condemn Neshaminy school district for
punishing newspaper editor, adviser
in ongoing fight over ‘Redskins’ name

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Student Press Law Center and Journalism Education Association Scholastic Press Rights Commission condemned the actions of the Neshaminy School District in Pennsylvania Wednesday, following the District’s retaliatory and illegal actions calculated to punish thePlaywickian student newspaper, its editors and its adviser.

In response to an editorial board decision not to print the word “Redskins” because of its use as a racial slur, the administration handed down a decision this week to pull $1,200 of funding from the publication; to suspend its adviser, Tara Huber, for two days; and to suspend Editor-in-Chief Gillian McGoldrick from the newspaper until the end of September.

It has long been the law of this country that no government official can compel a student to speak or adopt words with which she disagrees. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). Imposing discipline for refusing to participate in the use of a racial slur is not only unconstitutional; it is un-American in the extreme.

These actions come at a time when a transparently illegal publications policy remains on the books at the District level, one that also purports to compel the use of certain words and attempts to hijack ownership of student work. These are, at their core, bullying tactics—forcing people to say words, then turn over their property.

Competent educators of good conscience would never resort to bullying tactics to perpetuate any ideology, let alone a racially offensive one.

We encourage the students to explore their legal options and urge the State of Pennsylvania to investigate whether the Neshaminy School Board members should be removed.

Contact:

Frank LoMonte, Executive Director, Student Press Law Center
703.807.1904 / director@splc.org

John Bowen, Director, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission
330.676.3666 / jabowen@kent.edu

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It’s ironic

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

sprclogo

by John Bowen
It’s ironic that Sept. 17, a day mandated to honor the Constitution of the United States, also this year marks the 2-day suspension of Neshaminy adviser Tara Huber for what the board of education calls insubordination.

The board suspended her without pay for failing to stop students from defying its directive. Her crime: She did not censor her students’ actions, actions she had no part in and did not even know about.

Additionally, the board of education stripped the students’ fundraising account of $1,200 to reimburse printing costs when students failed to print a letter in that issue using a term they deemed offensive.

In our minds, Huber and her students, through their actions of following their beliefs and Constitutional protections, represent the true spirit of the Constitution.

Today.

Tomorrow.

Every day.

Background materials:

• Constitution Day lessons
http://jeasprc.org/the-playwickian-v-neshaminy-school-board-what-is-freedom-of-the-student-press-and-how-does-a-staff-make-and-defend-editorial-decisions-a-lesson-in-freedom/
• SPLC search for Neshaminy
http://www.splc.org/search/?q=neshaminy
• Neshaminy HS adviser suspended over newspaper’s ban
http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20140917_Neshaminy_HS_advisor_suspended_over_newspaper_s_ban.html
• Neshaminy suspends newspaper adviser for two days without pay
http://www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/local/neshaminy-suspends-newspaper-adviser-for-two-days-without-pay/article_1473f7c9-2647-56f4-8d6e-27441c6f6c0e.html
 Editor, faculty advisor suspended for refusing to print ‘redskin’ in school paper
http://www.salon.com/2014/09/18/editor_faculty_advisor_suspended_for_refusing_to_print_redskin_in_school_paper/ 

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