As the national organizations of journalism educators committed to the training of future journalists and the preparation of citizens for life in our democracy, we write to express our vigorous opposition to the proposed policy changes under consideration by the Neshaminy Board of School Directors that relate to school-sponsored student publications
We find the proposed policy changes, which give school officials virtually unlimited authority to censor student journalism even of the highest quality, educationally unsound, constitutionally insufficient and morally indefensible. They are inconsistent with the student media policies recommended by national education experts.
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.
Advisers, as you prepare for the end of year contest submissions, consider entering student work in the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission Making a Difference project. You can fill out this online form and upload documents for consideration for publication.
We published our first copy of Making a Difference in hard copy in 1988 because of the Hazelwood malaise. In that version, now downloadable, we highlighted scholastic reporting that demonstrated student journalism did not need the heavy hard of prior review and censorship. That tradition continues today and will continue so long as students continue to take their roles seriously and professionally.
In 2012, we committed ourselves to updating the project, hoping to show student journalism had not succumbed to Hazelwood.
We have seen some great work by student journalists across the country covering some intense topics. Let’s show the country what great work student journalists are doing that rivals work done by professional journalists.
You can enter your students’ work here: http://tinyurl.com/bmz6m5r
Here are some of the stories submitted earlier:
Making a Difference articles – 2014
• Students speak out about cancellation of SGA elections
• And the children shall lead them. Student journalists Make a Difference
• Student journalists make a difference
• Making a Difference: Student journalists document controversy
• Broken Hearts and Broken Minds
• Students tackle coverage of rape culture
• Freshman capstone project localizes national issue of gay rights
• Guns in America: From schools to shooting ranges
• Students speak out about cancellations of SGA elections
• Freshman capstone project localizes national issues of gay rights
• Exposing the killing impact of Heroin
Past student work:
• Past stories: You can Make a Difference. Show everyone how
Fond du Lac (WI) High’s English department has submitted a statement supporting student journalists and advocating the need for an open forum for student expression at their school.
Student journalists there have been in a prior review and restraint battle with school officials over a story on rape, called “Rape Joke.”
Kettle Moraine Press Association director Linda Barrington also noted the students aired a video on school announcements March 21, with administration approval. The video had some explanation from the principal about why he thinks the guidelines for prior review are needed.
The video can be seen here.
Arguments made on the video include the general thought that the school would like more oversight, the thought that some of the words used in the story were too edgy, and a reference to the argument the principal has been giving lately that reporters should have gotten the permission from the rapists who may have been involved in the stories of sexual abuse related by the anonymous sources in the “Rape Joke” story.
Barrington said in am email to the Journalism Education Association’s listserv that the next school board meeting for the district is Monday, March 24 at 5 pm at the Fond du Lac School District Administration Center at 72 Ninth St.
“Students are looking for as much support there as possible,” Barrington wrote.
Students journalists have received more than 5,300 signatures on a petition to their superintendent to reverse his prior review and censorship decision.
Additional coverage links:
• Trust kids to speak
• High school student protest censorship of the ‘The Rape Joke,’ school publication restriction
• Fond du Lac student protest censorship mandate for school publication
• High school cracks down on student paper that published rape culture article
•How far is too far? The issue of rape in the high school
• High school administration teaches student journalists valuable lesson: We will censor you early and often
• oped: Rape culture article in school paper leads to censorship policy
• Wisconsin administrators impose prior review after news magazine’s story on sexual assault
• Principal requires approval of high school paper’s stories after rape culture article
• WI school offices seize control over student paper after ‘rape culture’ article appears
More than 25 years after the Supreme Court limited First Amendment protections for high school student journalists, a survey of students and media advisers attending a national scholastic journalism convention indicates censorship is a fact of life in many schools.
Of the 5,506 students and teachers who attended the National High School Journalism Convention in Boston, Mass., Nov. 14-17, 2013, 531 students and 69 advisers responded to survey questions asking about their experiences with censorship of student media.
Significant numbers of both students (32 percent) and advisers (39 percent) said school officials had told them not to publish or air something. Thirty-two percent of advisers reported a school official reviews the content of their student news medium before it is published or aired. And 60 percent of students said someone other than student editors had the final authority to determine the content of the student media they advise.