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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 R-Word and the WaPo

Posted by on Aug 24, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Matt Schott August 22, the Washington Post editorial board decided to no longer use the term Redskins in its editorials (I believe it will live on in the sports and news sections).

This is a decision that seems to be pretty roundly lauded, particularly by Native American groups who’ve been fighting for this change for years. And it is a decision to be lauded. Continuing to use a racial epithet as a team name is unacceptable.

However, let’s not get hurt ourselves patting the WaPo editorial board on the back for its decisions. While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first.

No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania.

Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.

Even more specifically, you’d need to visit with the student editors of The Playwickian, Neshaminy’s student newspaper. 

While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first. No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania. Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.

In a decision that raised the ire of students, their principal and their school board, the editorial board of The Playwickian decided to no longer use the term Redskins (which is the school mascot) more than a year ago. A year.

And for that past year, they’ve been locked in battles with those aforementioned groups, fighting the principal who overturned their ban. The editorial board continued to defy its principal, threatening legal action if the school district continued fighting the ban.

The students’ mettle was tested when a student submitted a letter to the editor using the word, disagreeing with the editorial board’s decision. The editors chose to run it with the word Redskins changed to R——-.

Administrators ordered it to run unedited. The editorial board pulled it, choosing to run white space instead. The timing from the WaPo dovetails nicely with these students’ fight.

While I’d imagine this was announced because the NFL season kicking off in early September, this is also the time of year where students head back to school.

It would be great, as the student editors at Neshaminy headed back to their student newsroom – if the Washington Post, one of the vanguards of American journalism in the last 50 years – would provide a tip of the hat to these student journalists who showed them where the path of right was on this issue.

Perhaps the Post could send a letter to the students on staff, offer some advice or something of that sort. So often in the scholastic journalism classroom, it is students who look to the professionals for ideas and inspiration.

In this case, it’s the professionals who stand on the shoulders of giants. They should acknowledge this.

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Talking Points: Starting a discussion between advisers and administrators
to build the case against prior review, restraint

Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Lori Keekley
Advisers and administrators should be partners in education, not adversaries.

Advisers must teach principals about the importance of journalism and its relevance to today’s curriculum as well as enlighten them about the pitfalls of prior review and restraint.

We’ve created these Talking Points, based in part on Quill & Scroll’s new version of The Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism (available in print from Quill and Scroll) to help advisers begin to build their cases for a strong, student-driven journalism program.

Most points are further referenced in the Principal’s Guide, which are the page numbers that appear following the main point. Others have links in which advisers can find more information on the topic, including links to the online version of The Principal’s Guide  and materials from JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission.

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Students, the First Amendment and the Supreme Court

Posted by on Dec 29, 2012 in Blog, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Projects, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

by Jan Ewell
Permission granted to use at will for non-commercial purposes

The Bill of Rights and Schools

The First Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, became the law of the land in 1791, but 216 years later in 2007 Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in Morse v. Frederick, “As originally understood, the Constitution does not afford students a right to free speech in public school.”hazelwoodcolor

Thomas was an originalist, one who interprets the Constitution and the Bill of Rights according to what the Founding Fathers—the original authors—intended.  Public education was virtually non-existent at the time. Thomas says the Founding Fathers did not intend the Bill of Rights to limit the power of schools and were not specifically concerned about the rights of public school students.

Fortunately for the student press, the other eight justices instead debated which First Amendment rights students should have.  They looked at past court decisions for precedents, that is, earlier rulings by the court, that set a rule or pattern for deciding similar cases.

The precedent for almost 100 years was the 1833 Supreme Court decision in Barron v. Baltimore, which said the Bill of Rights applied only to the federal government.  According to Barron, “Congress shall make no law” meant the United States government—Congress–could not make laws “abridging freedom of speech, or of the press.”  States and cities—and school districts–could and did make laws that established religions, and abridged free speech and freedom the press, and limited the right to assemble.  “A local school teacher was not Congress within the meaning of `Congress shall make no law,’” said David L. Hudson Jr. in Let the Students Speak!   Only the federal government was forbidden to make such laws.

The Supreme Court began to apply the Bill of Rights to the laws and practices of states starting in 1925 with Gitlow v. New York.  By 1965, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the court indicated that all forms of government—not just the federal government–were restrained by the Constitution and its amendments, including the Bill of Rights.  Public schools are a form of government.

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Only the beginning of an important discussion

Posted by on Oct 25, 2010 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Columbia Scholastic Press Association Executive Director Ed Sullivan graciously agreed to share his comments from a listserv discussion about the recent Sixth Circuit court decision that teachers have no Teacher speech rights on school curriculum.

You can find those comments on the CSJblog.

His comments parallel another listserv discussion by Fellows of  a ASNE Reynolds 2010 Institute: How to best fight for First Amendment rights for our students when administrators don’t want to hear or support those arguments, and could even retaliate against teachers who make them. Like the teacher speech rights discussion, some advisers feel the fight is seemingly one teachers cannot win.

As the number of advisers dwindle who taught without the threat of Hazelwood, how can journalism organizations best help tomorrow’s teachers in the continuing and important fight to teach students the First Amendment is real – even though they might not be able to practice it.

As Mark Goodman, Kent State’s Knight chair for Scholastic Journalism, told the ASNE group, “We HAVE to teach students that censorship is wrong, morally, educationally and journalistically, even when it cannot be avoided or overcome.  And we have to do it in such a way that we don’t make kids so cynical they think the entire idea of the First Amendment is a joke.”

We’d like to hear your ideas and perspectives, too.

There will be more said here in weeks to come.

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