by John Bowen
With Scholastic Journalism Week starting Feb. 22, it would serve us well to note SPLC executive Frank LoMonte’s words in this week’s Education Week.
LoMonte covers a number of points he suggests disrespect and trivialize high school journalism: mistreating female scholastic journalists, establishing the lowest, barely legal level of freedom for scholastic media and undermining the news-literacy obligation of a high school education.
As we rightfully celebrate our strengths in scholastic journalism next week, we should also heed LoMonte’s points so we help others reach the levels of scholastic journalism programs we honor.
Check out a story here about such a situation where the principal is quoted as saying, “The school paper here at school is mine to control.”
Examine LoMonte’s thoughts, compare with the comments of the principal, and commit ourselves to elevate all journalism programs as they strive to reach the uncensored educational quality of the ones we honor most.
Sometimes it’s the bad things in life that help a person find a cause, a passion or a pathway. From a Pulitzer Prize-winner who sued his principal in the ‘70s to two teens, still closely involved in censorship issues at their own schools, those at the Student Press Law Center’s 40th anniversary dinner Oct. 16 heard stories every teen journalist and adviser should hear.
Oct. 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.
by Matt Smith, Adviser, Cardinal Columns
Fond du Lac High School
On August 25, the Fond du Lac Board of Education gave the official go-ahead for student publications at Fond du Lac High School to begin the new school year operating under new publication guidelines that scrap last year’s policy of administrative prior review.
The new guidelines are not the end of the journey (the language could be more consistent in designating the paper as a public forum for student expression and would be more protective if it was incorporated more directly into actual school board policy), but they are a huge step forward.
Students will no longer submit their work to the principal for approval prior to publication. They will also have the benefit of the more powerful learning and critical thinking development that comes with taking more responsibility for the quality journalism that they produce. The biggest benefit of all, however, may have come from the mere act of finally getting together all the stakeholders involved to craft the new guidelines.
The fact we got students and teachers and administrators and district staff (and eventually the superintendent and board of education and other community members) talking constructively about the importance and practice of journalism in our school was truly powerful.
With all the attention to Constitution Day and its lessons this week (which are usable any time), you might have missed other points of information:
• Friday, Sept. 19, the SPLC released information about reprinting its articles. For more information, go here.
• The same day Evelyn Lauer posted commentary to Huffington Post on the Neshaminey board suspension of its newspaper editor and adviser.
• An article on the Thinkprogress site about the Neshaminy issue.
• A column by Megan Fromm about the importance of news literacy and a scholastic journalism where students make all final decisions of content and learn from that action.
• A Thinglink visual linking to other essential SPRC works