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Yearbook controversy a time for discussion

Posted by on Jan 8, 2012 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

This week’s events involving a submitted senior photo for Denver-area yearbook create the potential for discussion and introspection, not only on student media staffs, but also with the communities they serve.

In the situation, a senior girl submitted as her senior portrait a photo of her wearing a yellow, short skirt and a shoulder and midriff exposing black shawl.

Some news reports say student editors approved the photo and the administration blocked that idea. Newer ones state the student editorial board made the decision.

Questions arose whether she should be permitted to use that image, was the publication a forum for student expression and who had the final decision of content. Some comments even questioned whether a yearbook should be afforded the same First Amendment rights as newspapers.

All are makings for eventful class discussions:

• What is appropriate dress for senior photos in yearbooks?
• Are dress code violations the same as First Amendment violations?
• Who makes that decision?
• Does a yearbook have the same rights as newspapers in schools?
• What is the yearbook’s role?

We hope these discussions occur and focus on key points, and we hope stakeholders reach these conclusions:
• Student editors make final decisions over all yearbook – and all student media – content.
• Yearbooks deserve the same rights as student newspapers.
• Yearbooks are designated public forums for student expression and not just public relations tools.

We hope you will let us know how those discussions go and what your students say is the purpose of scholastic yearbooks.

For more information about the original situation:
• Colorado student banned from yearbook over racy photo (well, she was not banned, but you get the point on reading the story)–abc-news.html
• Colorado yearbook was not censored in weirdly popular ‘navelgate’ story
• Student editors make call on yearbook photo
• High school student’s senior picture removed from yearbook for violating dress code


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A window on the faces of scholastic journalism: Extensive details about student media presented

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Although scholastic media maintain a strong presence across the nation, according in a new study their numbers lag in schools with large minority and poor populations.

Kent State University’s Center for Scholastic Journalism conducted the study, and its findings came from 1,023 public schools, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from a total sample of 4, 354 schools.

“Our study doesn’t really tell us how healthy high school journalism is, but it does confirm it’s there and in large numbers,” said Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism and one of the survey’s principal investigators.

The full report is available on the Center for Scholastic Journalism’s site.

Of schools surveyed, results showed 96 percent offer some opportunity for students to create content in a school-sponsored journalistic activity. Goodman said he hopes the telling results from this year’s Scholastic Journalism Census will  prompt a periodic assessment of the state of scholastic media.

“We want this count to provide a baseline from which we can assess changes in student journalism over time,” he said.

Other report findings included:

• 54 percent of students in schools without any student media qualify for free or a reduced lunch price. In schools with student media offering, that number is 41 percent.
• Public high schools across the country publish more than 11,000 student newspapers, outnumbering daily and weekly U. S. newspapers by more than 3,000 publications.
• More schools have a student yearbook than any other forum of student media.
• More than 15,000 public high schools offer a journalism or publications class, and the majority of all student media activities are produced in relationship to a class.
• Only 33 percent of surveyed schools have any form of online student media, and only 8 percent publish materials strictly online.
• The average school with student media has 873 students and a 35 percent minority population. The average school without student media has 222 students with a 56 percent minority population.

Some of these findings should be of particular interest to JEA, said assistant professor Candace Perkins Bowen, director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism and another principal investigator. “With that many journalism classes in the nation, our organization should be able to offer curricular support. The right kind of solid classes connected to something like the Common Core Standards could help protect student media and allow it to thrive.”

However, the lack of journalism in smaller schools with higher poverty and minority populations creates a stumbling block.

“Students who might benefit most from having journalism in the curriculum appear least likely to have it offered in their schools,” said Piotr Bobkowski, University of Kansas assistant professor and the survey’s third principal investigator.

Goodman said he hopes JEA and other adviser groups can use this data to support journalism educators.

“Advisers play a crucial role in the success of scholastic media programs and the defense of student press freedom,” he said. “I hope that we all can work to end the roadblocks of high school journalism programs moving online”

To download the full report, visit the Center for Scholastic Journalism site.

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Team McCandless

Posted by on Mar 15, 2010 in Blog, News | 0 comments

Wentzville Board Meeting
So over the past six months or so, the students and teacher at Timberland High School in Wentzville, Mo. have undergone some terrible tribulations at the hands of their administrators. Stories pulled in multiple issues, oversight of the yearbook, panel photos pulled from said yearbook in March, when there is little that can be done to change them in the book. The list of transgressions has been well publicized.

And that last sentence is the silver lining in this awful cloud of censorship. The students and parents of adviser Cathy McCandless have responded admirably and forcefully to this situation.

At last check, their Facebook group, Team McCandless, has 585 members. A Wentzville parent has also created a blog – – that catalogs much of the grievances of parents and publication students as well as encouraging people to action.

In meetings with administration, yearbook students are starting to see some victories in their discussions with the administrators.

And perhaps most important, they are taking their arguments where they can have impact: the board of education. This Thursday, a group of parents, students, alumni and teachers will be attending the Wentzville Board of Education – me included – in order to let the decision makers know their thoughts about what has transpired. I’m hoping to have thoughts on this site that evening, as well as perhaps some photos. One of the members of the Student Partners, Ted Noelker, will also be attending this event.

While I know this has been a terribly trying, taxing time for Cathy, it has to be heart warming to know she’s done a good job teaching her students about their rights as student journalists and, in turn, her students have taught their parents enough about their rights to, hopefully, do something about it.

After talking with Cathy, I know she’s somewhat hopeful the tide may turn back towards her students favor. Hopefully, a big showing on Thursday will help sway the board of education and district administrators to see reason.

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Move over, Michael Myers. There’s a new slasher in town.

Posted by on Nov 3, 2009 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

It really must be the season of the witch.

The Student Press Law Center today tweeted yearbook censorship in a Summerville, Georgia, high school. According to a WRCB-TV report, the new principal censored the fall-released yearbook prepared by students and their now retired adviser last spring.

His target: four pages of shirtless boys playing basketball.

The pages were cut from the book. Slashed, leaving ragged edges, tattered memories.

The reason:  “Inadvertently,” WRCB-TV quoted the new principal, ” the school administration did not approve the 2008 -2009 yearbook in its entirety; there were several photographs that did not reflect an appropriate image of the school or our community. The pages which contained the photos were removed.” The principal declined further comment.

If that does not bring a chill, consider that other photos of boys without shirts remain in the yearbook.

The system’s superintendent told the television station the principal “is trying to improve the image of the school, and the academic programs of the school. He has it headed in the right direction.”

It is a direction the former adviser does not approve.

In a video section of the report the retired adviser said he was very disappointed with the decision to mutilate the yearbook.

” There was absolutely nothing inappropriate about the pages that were cut from the book,” the adviser of 27 years was quoted on the video. “I am offended by the lack of regard shown for the students pictured on those page, the students who worked on the yearbook staff last year, and most of all, the students who purchased the yearbook.”

So say we all.

Move over Michael Myers. There is a new slasher in town and, frighteningly enough, another tale of horror in yet another town.

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