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More lessons on free speech

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

To read about how one columnist found a school squandered a First Amendment teaching moment,  read this article by Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.

As we have seen, schools all too often move to squelch instead of teach.

A tip of the hat to Mark Newton for the link.

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Michigan schools face loss of open forum status

Posted by on Apr 4, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Despite the Dean v. Utica court decision and despite the fact they have had histories of being forums for student expression, at least two more Michigan schools and their student media face school board rejection of that student media status.

In a number of similar instances, a common factor, according to boards and advisers, is the consulting group, NEOLA.

NEOLA released  a revised set of policies this fall for student media, 5722, which consisted of four possible selections instead of a single choice, last updated in 2000. The 2000 model NEOLA policy did not support an open forum concept for student media. NEOLA says its updated four choices have two non open forum models and two open forum ones.

Either of the two forum offerings, as NEOLA presents them, allows a district to choose which student media not to permit to be called open forums. School boards can pick and chose which of the options they want to adopt.

NEOLA says it does not advocate any of the four choices over the others.

Information reported in today’s Hometownlife.com reported otherwise for journalism students in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools.

“Acting on a recommendation from NEOLA,” the policy consultant used by the district,” the publication reported, “Plymouth-Canton’s policy committee recommended changes to the policy covering school-sponsored publications and productions.”

According to hometownlife, “The new policy, if adopted, applies to “school-sponsored media” such as Perspective, 88.1, yearbooks, playbills, blogs, library journals, theatrical productions and video and audio productions. It also extends to posters, pamphlets, and school-sponsored clothing such as T-shirts.”

The online publication also reported that a Michigan law firm supported imposing the restrictive Hazelwood interpretation of how school districts can control student media.

According to the article, school officials do not plan to change “the way we do business. We have an obligation to make sure our students maintain high standards of academic achievement.”

JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission is talking to Michigan advisers and NEOLA officials for additional information.

Reports of NEOLA-led changes came from the Dexter Schools. Student media in Dexter also face hostile blog attacks.

Anyone in Michigan or other states who faces similar actions over policy reversal should let their state JEA directors and the press rights commission know the details.

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Reasonable Forecasts

Posted by on Feb 2, 2010 in Blog, News | 0 comments

According to Kelley R. Taylor, Esq., in the February issue of Principal Leadership, “Courts recognize that principals are the best judges of what will disrupt their schools, but they still must provide evidence that their decisions are based on fact.” The article discusses the A. M. v. Cash case (October 2009 – U. S. Court of Appeals for the 5th District) where the court did uphold a lower court ruling that the school did not violate student free speech when it prohibited any display of the Confederate flag, which the school named in its policies as an inappropriate symbol.

Taylor warns principals that they cannot just intuit a disruption, but they can  make a ‘reasonable forecast’ only when that ‘certain proscribed speech’ would cause substantial disruption based on clear and substantial information gained from inquiry.   It is interesting to note that the Superior Court used the Tinker standard as reference to support he administrator’s ‘reasonable forecast’ of disruption.

What does this mean to student journalists?  Fortunately, Tinker is a strong standard to protect student expression.  However,  Tinker can be used in stop student expression. Without a doubt, Tinker still establishes the standard for administrators to follow when censoring student expression.  Principals must be able to “reasonably forecast” disruption in school when deciding to censor student publications.  This is a cautionary article admonishing administrators to gather strong evidence through extensive  investigation or from past history within the individual school to claim “reasonable forecast” as a reason for censoring student expression.

Perhaps principals could take a lesson from  student journalists across the country who do extensive research before they actually write their stories and publish them in student publications.

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The best things to teach them

Posted by on Nov 29, 2009 in News | 0 comments

My Teaching High School Journalism course at Kent State is almost over for this semester, and I’m beginning to wonder if I have taught the right things to these education majors who may end up in media classrooms.

Sure, as usual I started with law, emphasizing unprotected speech and the stuff that can REALLY get student media in trouble. They learned about Tinker, Hazelwood, Bethel and Bong Hits and the impact these cases have. From there, we worked our way through ethical issues — the “SHOULD we?” that follows the “COULD we?” After all, without 70 percent on the law and ethics test, my students don’t pass the course. That stuff matters.

They figured out the difference between journalistic writing and “English-class writing,” and we practiced coaching and the maestro concept as we thought about how to package stories for an audience using good design and graphics. Yes, I tried to teach them everything I learned while earning my undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism education and from MANY years in the classroom.

But did I teach them to show their students the importance of caring? The need to cover stories that should be told, not just the ones that fall into their laps? Did I make sure they won’t be afraid to tell their students they have the right and even obligation to question authority? Did I make sure they know it’s not just a matter of filling the time on air or the space on a page? Did I teach them to help those in their classes stand up for their beliefs?

Will those in my course this semester become the kind of teachers who can support their student journalists and help them make a difference?

I’ll have a new group next semester. What do YOU think I should teach them? It’s only 15 weeks of class, but what MUST be part of their learning?

Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

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Links to important scholastic media court cases

Posted by on Sep 11, 2009 in Blog, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

JEA members using the listserv this week were making a list of important scholastic media court cases. That list, or one like it, is on the Court cases page (see link at the top right of this page) – and with links to information about those cases.

We hope you will find these cases and links to them useful We also hope you will suggest other cases and links you found useful.

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