Two items of note to scholastic media and student expression so far this first full week of August, and the week is just starting. Both issues could be localized into solid stories no matter where your school is.
• I heart boobies: The 3rd circuit ruled en banc Aug. 5 that a PA school’s ban of “I heart boobies” bracelets was unconstitutional because such expression was about political or social issues and did not qualify as lewd speech.
The school had argued that the bracelets were “harmful and confusing” to middle school students, the Student Press Law Center reported. The SPLC also indicated the decision allowed schools to ban speech that is “plainly” lewd and cannot be seen has having a political or social message.
According to the Washington Post’s report, the school’s lawyer said the ruling leaves schools no guidance for interpretation about how to interpret a growing amount of double-entendres they say will cause disruption.
• Restrictive social media policy: The Lodi Unified, California, schools intend to enforce what students call a repressive social media policy requiring students in activities from athletics to clubs to sign before they can participate. The policy, according to a report from a Aug. 5 recordnet.com story, would allow school officials to punish students for social media posts made on or off school grounds, including retweets and likes that the school finds “inappropriate.”
The policy, recordnet.com reports, “The policy cracks down on threats towards other people and other bullying techniques. It allows schools to bench athletes or remove students from clubs if officials learn they have posted inappropriate, profane or sexual language on a social media site – or boasted or endorsed illegal or violent activity.”
The SPLC has called the policy “outlandishly illegal” and cites California laws to support student views.
The Lodi policy is explained more in this article from the Lodi News.
• Federal court strikes down ‘I (heart) boobies’ ban
•US Appeals court: PA school can’t ban ‘boobies’ bracelets because message isn’t lewd
•Appeals court says school can’t ban breast-cancer awareness bracelet
•Third circuit appeals court backs students in ‘Boobies’ bracelet case
• #dislike: Lodi Unified students protest social media policy aimed at bullying
• Students railing against social media contract implemented by school district
* California students pro test social media contract banning ‘inappropriate’ posts
• Lodi Unified district social contract
Social media can be daunting. Know how journalism standards, legal and ethical principles apply. #25HZLWD http://jeasprc.org/tweet23-social-media-use-requires-legal-ethical-guides
Social media are merely other tools in the arsenal of journalism. Social media offer student journalists much in the way of new approaches and coverage possibilities, but like all “new” communication tools of the past they also bring fear and unease. It is imperative that schools and their student media understand and rely on the “legacy” standards of professional journalism, legal and ethical. It is undeniable that new legal and ethical standards will develop, building on the old. Until they do, we can rely on what exists for essential guidance.
More and more scholastic journalism programs rush to join the social media landscape, adding Twitter, Facebook and all types of other quick and digital ways to reach audiences with their coverage.
Some have even gone so far to call media prepared by non-journalists the fifth estate, replacing the fourth estate (to be henceforth called legacy media).
One has to wonder, though, whether the fourth and fifth estates will be that different, indeed, whether they should be that different.
The point, we must argue, is to keep and embellish the basics, the good, from the legacy media and surround it and enhance it with the multimedia approaches of the fifth estate.
In fact, we must also build our programs so they can embrace change and expand as new media emerges.
• Social Media Toolbox
• Social Media, the classroom and the First Amendment
• JEA online ethical guidelines
Marina Hendricks, a member of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission, has developed a “Social Media Toolbox” for use by student journalists and their advisers.
The toolbox, available at hendricksproject.wordpress.com, features 16 lessons on social media plus related resources. The lessons can be used as a unit or individually, depending on the needs of students, advisers and school publication programs.
As a unit, the lessons are designed to help student journalists and their advisers navigate the transition into using social media as part of their publication programs. The unit starts with ethical decision-making to help guide students through the process. It continues with exploration of reasons for using social media, consideration of how social media tools are employed by journalists, and evaluation of the school community’s use of social media through a survey.
Other lessons focus on legal issues, social media policies and roles, cyberbullying, reporting using social media, and tutorials for implementing popular tools such as Facebook and Twitter. The unit concludes by challenging students to design an educational program on social media for the school community.
This is a fantastic educational opportunity for students and teachers to determine the impact of social media in a scholastic journalism setting and for administrators and communities to see how they can support and enhance a journalistically strong – free and responsible – social media program.
About the author: Marina is senior manager of communications for the Newspaper Association of America in Arlington, Va. In a previous life, she ran a program for teen journalists sponsored by The Charleston Gazette in West Virginia. She also served as an adjunct faculty member for the University of Charleston, teaching an introductory journalism course. She completed the “Social Media Toolbox” as the final project for her master of arts in journalism education at Kent State University, under the supervision of Candace Perkins Bowen, John Bowen and Mark Goodman.
So, Friday was a good day.
What Friday demonstrated was that when an injustice – and I know that sounds huge and the slightest bit pretentious – is done, some people are still willing to stand up and do what is right. And the silence from the sponsor of the bill and the complete about face by the governor should tell you all you need to know about this law.
The outcry from teachers – and particularly journalism advisers – in Missouri was a bit of a sight to behold.
Honestly, I think Missouri teachers’ reaction to this bill may have been a reaction to things that have happened in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana over the past year, where teachers have been put in the crosshairs by politicians. And much like in those cases – particularly Wisconsin and Ohio – politicians have learned a lesson the hard way: do not mess with teachers.
Because while we are impossibly busy preparing your – and our – children to be the leaders of tomorrow, we will absolutely, positively no longer stand for this.
Even more impressive was the reaction of students.
Cameron Carlson, a former student at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo., created a Facebook group in the days proceeding its signing into law. In less than a month, it has almost 1,000 members.
Devan Coggan, a recent graduate of Kirkwood HS wrote a letter to her local representative detailing her thoughts on the matter, after posting it on her Tumblr blog.
Students from four high schools across Missouri participated in a Google+ hangout with Aurora Meyer, from the Missouri State Teachers Association, as part of a press conference for their coverage of the issue.
And I can’t even begin to count the number of tweets sent on this matter.
So, lessons to be learned?
First, is that the First Amendment and social media are powerful tools. By taking to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, opponents of SB54 used a little bit of social media jujitsu to help propel this law back in Sen. Jane Cunningham’s face. The irony of all this makes me smile.
Teachers in all states must be vigilant of what is going on in their state legislatures. I heard about this bill in the middle of July, shortly before Gov. Jay Nixon signed it into law. In the current climate of what is going on in state legislatures across the country, teachers (and their unions, see below) need to be on the ball and prepared to act quickly and decisively when they are threatened, no matter the type of law.
Union members need to hold union leadership accountable. MSTA stepped up to the plate and did its job to represent its members by filing the suit that led to the the injunction against SB54. MNEA did so to a lesser extent, trying to work with Sen. Jane Cunningham, who crafted the law. Honestly though, the offending portions of SB54 shouldn’t have ever made it out of committee, much less to the governor’s desk. There have been several things MNEA has helped stall or kill that many teachers would argue were more important than this bill, but missing this patently ridiculous and obviously unconstitutional portion of this law is a big miss.
Finally, educators – and journalism educators in particular – deserve leadership from the media. All too many of the state’s papers weighed in on SB54 after the heavy work was done.
I appreciate the support of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Joseph News-Press and any other media outlets that have weighed in, but editorial pages are a place to lead. At least that’s what I teach my students.
The fact the state’s major papers maintained radio silence over the course of most of August is shameful, particularly on a First Amendment issue.
by Matt Schott
A slap in the face. And an unexpected one at that.
When I first read SB54, that was my reaction. And not a slap to my First Amendment rights, either, though I believe those rights are threatened by the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act and informs much of the anger over this from journalism educators.
No, to me, this was a slap in the face to my professionalism, my credibility, my trustworthiness.
In any profession, these are the qualities people try to build and nurture. With a swipe of his pen, what Gov. Jay Nixon (and to an extent State Sen. Jane Cunningham, who wrote the bill) did was wipe away those three things which I hold dear. Because what he did was cast teachers into the same category of respect generally reserved for criminals.
SB54 essentially said teachers were not fit to maintain a professional relationship with the students whom they have taken great steps to build and nurture relationships, no matter the medium. While I consider myself to be well-versed in the field of journalism, I consider myself (and most good educators) to be better in the field of connecting with students where they are most comfortable. Good educators work to make sure they have positive relationships with their students. More than anything, it is what makes us good educators.
What Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have evidently forgotten is that private conversations happen all the time at school. On Aug. 16, a Tuesday, I had no fewer than six private conversations with students. All of them were about things relating to education. Some were simple, like asking for the definition of a word. Others about projects that have been assigned.
These two public servants obviously don’t know much about the public they serve. They should watch this. Facebook is the most trafficked site on the Internet and high school students have driven that traffic almost since the site’s inception. As it says on the linked video: “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have ensured Missouri students will “do social media” worse than students in the rest of the nation.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, by not allowing educators to teach and model what a positive social media presence looks like, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have made it that much harder for Missouri students to succeed in the digital marketplace.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have taken away an avenue – sometimes the only avenue they feel safe in – for troubled students to communicate with someone they trust: their teacher.
Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham did have some successes with this bill, perhaps in spite of themselves.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have drawn the attention of the nation to the educational practices in our state and shown the nation that they, at least, don’t believe in the job Missouri teachers are doing. Thanks for your support.
By seeking to take educators out of the social media equation, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have succeeded in making a difficult job more difficult. Not being able to communicate with trusted students in a medium they feel comfortable in inhibits the learning and success of all students. Thanks for the extra work, we need more of it.
And finally, by seeking to take educators out of the social media equation in Missouri, Gov. Nixon and Sen. Cunningham have angered a very vocal and active political force: educators. Make no mistake, teachers in Missouri are upset (to use a school appropriate word) by this law. Teachers in Missouri are conferring about this law. And soon, very soon, I hope teachers in Missouri will be working with wonderful organizations like the Student Press Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union, to battle and overturn this ill-informed, poorly written and insulting law. You’re welcome. By giving the educators of Missouri a little bit more work to do, we’ll help you learn through experience and hopefully, as you reflect upon this once SB54 is overturned, you’ll have learned something.
All in a day’s work.