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SPJ condemns Wentzville prior review, censorship

Posted by on Mar 28, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

The Society of Professional Journalists this week termed disruptive the Wentzville Board of Education’s use of prior review, censorship and the resulting resignation of a trained adviser.

The letter urged administrators to end prior review of student media.

The comments were part of a letter from SPJ dated March 25 and addressed to board members and administrators. Information about the letter was posted by the SPLC on its blog.

The letter referred to prior review and censorship resulting from articles and photos about tattoos and other newspaper and yearbook content.

“Continuing these restrictions will only cause further damage to a once well-respected student publication,” wrote SPJ President Kevin Smith, “and it will send the message to students that governmental control of the news media is valued over a free press.”

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Join a team that opposes censorship

Posted by on Feb 20, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Looking for something constructive to do that concerns education, scholastic journalism and maybe even the future of democracy?

Join a team that opposes censorship.

Team McCandless.

Students and parents who want to stop censorship of student media started team McCandless because adviser Cathy McCandless has said she will not advise student media next year given the prior review and censorship generated over several years.

The site urges everyone to “join us if you want to show your support. Censorship teaches nothing.”

We agree, and urge everyone who cares about scholastic journalism, about opposing censorship, to join.

Lori Carballo, who set up the Facebook page, writes there, “We cannot let our opinions be heard only on Facebook. Take the time to let your voices be heard by the Wentzville School District. Contact the school board, the building administrators, the superintendents and tell them what’s on your mind.”

It might just be the first step to ignite constructive change in a series of bad administrative decisions.

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Fighting scholastic media censorship must start locally

Posted by on Nov 23, 2009 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

They just keep on coming.

Stevenson High. Timberland High. Stow-Munroe Falls High. Boonville High and others too numerous to list.

And those are just some we know about.

But there are countless others — the smaller, lesser known stories you hear about at workshops like the recent JEA/NSAP convention in DC.

• Like the Virginia  student journalist who needed suggestions on how to work with a principal about prior review because the principal offered no justification for censoring topics administrators considered negative to the school.

• Like the Michigan school who wanted guidelines on how to report controversial issues so they could remain review-free.

• Like the student who would not say what state she was from, just that she was from the Bible Belt. She sought help on how to report on her principal being “under persecution” because of discussion of Christian issues

• Like the South Carolina student journalist trying to understand why her conservative community was upset about the reporting on a pregnant teen.

Each of these instances deserves our attention as much as the larger, more publicized instances.

To help journalism teachers and advisers, we need to know when to offer our help and why. It is much harder to assist these students, advisers and parents if we don’t know the issues and the ways we can help.

If your student media face censorship or prior review, please let us know so we can act to support in ways you feel best for your situation.

Here are some ways:

• Report the issue to the Student Press Law Center .

• Complete a censorship report by going to The Center for Scholastic Journalism to report censorship or prior review, and fill out the forms.

• If the adviser is a member of JEA, activate the organization’s Adviser Assistance Program by contacting your state JEA representative, your regional director or JEA headquarters. You can get that information from the JEA Web site.

• Leave a comment on this blog. A member of JEA’s press rights commission or members of the other commissions (certification, curriculum, multi-cultural or middle school) will get back to you.

Help us know who needs assistance and attention from the most well-known to the smallest issue.

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Scary days are becoming weeks and months

Posted by on Nov 6, 2009 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

The principal of Timberland High School in Wentzville, Missouri, recently censored student articles on tattoos. Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted an article about the censorship.  Quickly, reader comments mounted.

The principal indicated he thought everyone could grow from this.

We’re not sure what he has in mind as growth, but we’re certain school officials or some of those who commented have not mastered understanding citizen roles in a democracy. Or understanding how students learn.

Which creates another scary day in scholastic journalism.

The principal also said he “is responsible for judging content based on what’s appropriate for students in the school and whether it supports the mission of the school.”

School missions, though, usually have verbiage about building better citizens and encouraging civic involvement. And that is appropriate.

Sadly, by censoring, school officials do not accomplish the most crucial mission they say is important.

Read the Post-Dispatch article. Read the student article linked from it. Read the comments.

Then think about school missions again.

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