The upcoming 25th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision reminds us how important it is to have student media that are open forums for student expression either by school policy or by practice. Do they exist? We hope so…
Our goal: To showcase your schools and your policies to the nation on a Forum Map so we see that not all student media are subjected to the limitations and censorship of that misguided decision.
We, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission (SPRC) and Kent State’s Center for Scholastic Journalism (CSJ), ask all student media that are open forums to complete the attached form and return it or send links to your policies to us.
• Here’s what you do:
Download the writeable form and return it to KentStateCSJ@gmail.com with requested policies and other materials.
Despite the Dean v. Utica court decision and despite the fact they have had histories of being forums for student expression, at least two more Michigan schools and their student media face school board rejection of that student media status.
In a number of similar instances, a common factor, according to boards and advisers, is the consulting group, NEOLA.
NEOLA released a revised set of policies this fall for student media, 5722, which consisted of four possible selections instead of a single choice, last updated in 2000. The 2000 model NEOLA policy did not support an open forum concept for student media. NEOLA says its updated four choices have two non open forum models and two open forum ones.
Either of the two forum offerings, as NEOLA presents them, allows a district to choose which student media not to permit to be called open forums. School boards can pick and chose which of the options they want to adopt.
NEOLA says it does not advocate any of the four choices over the others.
Information reported in today’s Hometownlife.com reported otherwise for journalism students in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.
“Acting on a recommendation from NEOLA,” the policy consultant used by the district,” the publication reported, “Plymouth-Canton’s policy committee recommended changes to the policy covering school-sponsored publications and productions.”
According to hometownlife, “The new policy, if adopted, applies to “school-sponsored media” such as Perspective, 88.1, yearbooks, playbills, blogs, library journals, theatrical productions and video and audio productions. It also extends to posters, pamphlets, and school-sponsored clothing such as T-shirts.”
The online publication also reported that a Michigan law firm supported imposing the restrictive Hazelwood interpretation of how school districts can control student media.
According to the article, school officials do not plan to change “the way we do business. We have an obligation to make sure our students maintain high standards of academic achievement.”
JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission is talking to Michigan advisers and NEOLA officials for additional information.
Reports of NEOLA-led changes came from the Dexter Schools. Student media in Dexter also face hostile blog attacks.
Anyone in Michigan or other states who faces similar actions over policy reversal should let their state JEA directors and the press rights commission know the details.
In light of recent censorship situations around the country, especially Stevenson High in Illinois and Timberland High in Missouri, please help the JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission expand its outreach to those facing censorship issues.
We also want to celebrate student media operating as open forums for student expression.
• If your student media has faced or faces censorship, please let us know so JEA and other scholastic journalism groups might be able to offer advice or assist. Use this downloadable form to enable us to be more aware of issues your students face.
• If your student media is a designated open forum for student expression or is an open forum for student expression by practice, please let us know. Use this downloadable form so JEA and other scholastic journalism groups can recognize your accomplishments.
• If your student media prior review where someone other than students makes final decisions of content, please let us know. Use this downloadable form so JEA and other scholastic journalism groups can recognize your accomplishments.
We know there are a significant number of open forum student media out there, and we’d like to see you apply for JEA’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award (FAPFA).
Being an open forum for student expression, besides having exceptional educational validity and offering excellent learning opportunities for students, also can help protect a school system in cases of liability.
If you think your student media are forums, by policy or practice, then go here and download the application form for FAPFA. Application for the honor comes in two parts: the initial application of 25 questions for a media adviser and an administrator. Those meeting the criteria for the award will then receive a second application to be filled out by the principal, all student media editors and advisers. Deadline for applying is Dec. 1, 2009. Those meeting the final criteria will be recognized at the JEA/NSPA convention in Portland.