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Nevada makes 12. Who will be next?

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Nevada became the latest state to pass New Voices legislation when Gov. Brian Sandoval signed SB 420 into law June 2. The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

Nevada’s signing  followed a similar signing a week earlier in Vermont, making 12 states protecting state legislation.

Supporters of Nevada’s New Voices Facebook page posted, “Thank you, followers and supporters, for making history and giving real meaning back to Justice Fortas’ reminder that neither students nor their advisers ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.’ You have helped ensure that student journalism in Nevada can be, as Justice Brennan famously said, uninhibited, robust, and wide open.'”

As Dan Brown had main character Robert Langdon say in The Lost Symbol, “We are builders. We are creators…” Creating state protection for student free expression is one of the best ways to ensure a long-term foundation for democracy.

Advocating free expression is not a decision to rush into lightly,  but there are a plethora of resources available, and people ready to explain them and assist you. And results creates achieve are immensely worthwhile.

Here are some key links:

• Center of Scholastic Journalism video of its 2016 Legislation Conference

• New Voices  website or Facebook pages

• SPRC’s Blueprint for state legislation

• Individual states seeking to pass legislation  have online sites and Facebook links.

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Why society needs New Voices legislation

Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Arizona Gov. Ducey shows why
we need journalists who
question those in power

by Lori Keekley, MJE
The idea any New Voices bill would result in students being unsupervised or teachers not mentoring students is preposterous.

That’s the excuse Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gave for vetoing the Arizona New Voices legislation. The New Voices bill clarifies the roles of advisers, students and administrators; it empowers student voices; it doesn’t protect speech that is libelous, obscene, etc.

The governor did say in the Arizona Capitol Times article these are the next group of journalists “who will hold our government and leaders accountable.”

If students first learn only the news a school administrator deems appropriate is accepted, then we will have fewer journalists who question authority. We should teach students how to question authority — including requesting Freedom of Information Act requests.

We’ve seen how legislation similar to the current New Voices campaign has fostered this authority check Ducey would like to see. In Kansas, students were the only ones who questioned the incoming principal’s credentials.

Additionally, the SPRC has helped students whose administrators try to censor stories on types of birth control, cost of a stadium, coverage of rape culture.

This censorship may impact girls more than boys. According  to the SPLC’s The Active Voice  campaign, girls make ups a majority in high school media. When girls try to cover topics administrators attempt to censor, they may not re-engage.

The fact that Ducey said if this had been college students, he would have signed the bill into law. Too bad for many of our students, they may be too defeated by college to question authority.

It’s time for students’ voices to be empowered and not stifled.


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New Voices: Learning the lessons

Posted by on May 9, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE
There’s good news . . . and then there’s news when it comes to New Voices bills to protect student journalists.

First, the exciting part. Chris Evans, from the University of Vermont and chairman of College Media Association’s First Amendment Advocacy, posted Friday, May 5 on the New Voices USA Facebook page: “Today, Vermont’s New Voices legislation passed BOTH the Senate and House of Representatives. Student free-speech activism FTW!”

And a win it is. As Frank LoMonte reported on the SPLC website, “After months of back-and-forth, student press protections are on their way to the governor’s desk in Vermont.”

The article explains that this was part of “an omnibus education bill” and will now move to Gov. Phil Scott, “who is expected to sign it into law,” reports.

The fourth New Voices bill to get this far since North Dakota started the momentum in 2015, Vermont’s law would give protection to student journalists in K-12 schools and public colleges plus protection to faculty advisers who refuse to censor the legally protected work of their students.

But the other news demonstrates some of the challenges for those attempting to pass similar legislation in their states. Nevada and Michigan both have active bills at the time, but for varied reasons, they are still in process.

Patrick File, a media law professor at University of Nevada, Reno and former SPLC intern, said the way Nevada’s legislature operates creates a couple of challenges. First, the Senate and Assembly meet only every other year. “It’s an absolute sprint for 120 days from February to June,” File said.

File worked with LoMonte, plus a UNLV associate professor, the executive director of the Nevada Press Association and an attorney from the SPLC attorney network to find Senator Nicole Cannizzaro, who was willing and able to sponsor the bill.

File found support from high school advisers in both Reno and Las Vegas. Casandra Workman, CJE, spoke at a Senate committee hearing in Las Vegas, where she teaches, to “address some of the concerns” that had come up. Liz Walsh, MJE from Reno, wrote testimony and Christy Briggs, MJE, also from Reno, took students to the Senate session..

Senate Bill 420 was drafted, as all Nevada’s bills are, by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, a group of lawyers working for the legislators. Although the original bill had been patterned after the successful one in Maryland, the LCB later added amendments its members thought would improve the bill.

Not so, said File and others. Included was language that essentially requires prior review and a disciplinary process for students and advisers (but not administrators) who would prohibit free press.

As of Monday, May 8, File indicated some confidence that LCB would remove the problematic amendments, and the bill could go to the Assembly.

“My takeaway,“ File said, “is the need to be the eyes and ears of the sponsor, who’s not always as knowledgeable about student media and has 20 or 30 bills to follow, but we only have one. We have to stay on top of the language.”

Jeremy Steele, Michigan Interscholastic Press Association executive director, said, “A lot things can happen during the legislative process, and every New Voices campaign will be thrown at least one curve ball. Expect a surprise. Plan for it as best you can.”

That state currently has a bill in the House, sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Darrin Camilleri, a former high school social studies teacher, “so this bill speaks to issues that he’s passionate about,” Steele said.

The challenge here? Republicans far outnumber Democrats in the Michigan House, 100 to 63.

But Steele and those in Michigan working on New Voices say they appreciate Camilleri’s interest and “look forward to finding ways to work with him.”

Meanwhile, Steele said they have a good record from last year with bipartisan support in the Senate. The previous sponsor, Sen. Rick Jones, chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and is now working with them on a new version of the bill to “address many of the concerns we heard from stakeholders last session,” Steele said.

Sharing lessons learned like these seems to be one thing that’s helping current legislation move forward. Steve Listopad, then from North Dakota and the driving force between the first New Voices legislation, maintains a website that also contains helpful content from the SPLC.

Other useful tips come in videos from a November 2016 symposium hosted by Kent State University’s Center for Scholastic Journalism. Student media advisers at both the high school and college levels, scholastic press association leaders, lobbyists and others concerned with student voices from 17 states and the District of Columbia, participated. Videos captured all the panels, including one sponsored in part by JEA: “Part 6: Getting Advisers/Students/Scholastic Press Associations Engaged.”


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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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The importance of student free expression
and widespread information on legislation

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 1 comment


As journalism teachers, we know our students learn more when they make publication choices. Prior review or restraint does not teach students to produce higher quality journalism.

As journalism teachers, we know the only way to teach students to take responsibility for their decisions is to give them the responsibility to make those decisions freely.

As journalism teachers we also know democracy depends on student understanding all voices have a right to be heard, knowing they have a voice in their school and community and keeping both informed.

As journalism teachers, we know the only way to teach students to take responsibility for their decisions is to give them the responsibility to make those decisions freely.

“America needs ‘informed communities,’ places where the information ecology meets people’s personal and civic information needs,” reported a 2009 Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, “They need information to participate fully in our system of self-government, to stand up and be heard. Driving this vision are the critical democratic values of openness, inclusion, participation, empowerment, and the common pursuit of truth and the public interest,” the Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age report indicated.

Recent passage of New Voices legislation in Illinois and Maryland and steps to pass similar bills in numerous states point to the importance of student free expression. Attempts also point to a need for students to engage their communities so all know about the importance of such legislation.

Whether advisers and students live in a state where legislation has passed or in a state where legislation is an active project, the accompanying materials can be used to strengthen the understanding of legislation, deepen the resolve for passage or reinforce communities’ understanding and thus support for student free expression.

Whether advisers and students live in a state where legislation has passed or in a state where legislation is an active project, they can use the materials in this package to strengthen the understanding of legislation, deepen the resolve for passage or reinforce communities’ understanding and thus support for student free expression.

Sometimes, despite legislation and all the best intentions, censorship and other limitations of guaranteed rights occurs. The accompanying resources are also designed to help student journalists, their advisers and administrators provide answers about the importance and benefits of student freedom expression.

Resources can help provide additional background on student free expression and approaches to information your communities need to know  about the importance of such freedom, including passage of free expression legislation.

  • Contents of this package:
    • Importance of state legislation: Although many educators and advocates think of the First Amendment (and the court decisions interpreting it) as the most important tool for interpreting student press rights, there is another equally important source of law: state statutes.
    • Why protecting student free expression is important: Students and advisers in states with recent freedom of expression legislation may want to inform their communities of educational rationale for the legislation. Additionally, those states working to pass such legislation might want to use the same points to gain support
    • Talking Points: With legislation giving students decision-making power over their student media comes questions about roles, purpose and standards. If the school cannot make content decisions who is responsible? What is the role of the adviser? Of students? If the adviser cannot control content, what guidelines will students follow and why?
    • Breakdown of Illinois HB5902: Showing what the bill’s language means.
    • Tips for engaging communities: With new legislation, or attempts to pass it, comes the need for ways to engage those who would support it. The ways can run from concept to concrete and can be delivered in many approaches with details determined locally.
    • Legislation terminology: A compilation of important terminology so everyone can better understand the language and issues surrounding student free expression language.
    • What to do if school officials threaten censorship: Even though state legislation can provide protection, sometimes others do not understand that and need further education. Use a friendly and informative approach and help them understand. Here are some steps we recommend.
    • Sample press release on state legislation: Another option for letting your various communities know about the benefits of free expression legislation is to create a press release to media, civic groups, school board and others.
    • Resources on state legislation: Links to additional information and contacts.



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