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Talking Points about student free expression

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Talking Points and terminology related to free expression legislation
Foundations_mainWith legislation giving students decision-making power over their student media comes questions about roles, purpose and standards. If the school cannot make content decisions who is responsible? What is the role of the adviser? Of students? If the adviser cannot control content, what guidelines will students follow and why?

The Student Press Law Center has said its goal for supporting free expression legislation is to approach the various New Voices Acts as comprehensive educational legislation that will benefit students at each stage of their development, while recognizing the differences between each educational environment.

“A core value of being a journalist is to understand the role of the press in a free society. That role is to provide an independent source of information so that a citizen can make informed decisions. It is often the case that this core value of journalistic independence requires a  journalist to question authority rather than side with authority. Thus, if the role of the press in a democratic society is to have any value, all journalists – including student journalists – must be allowed to publish viewpoints contrary to those of state authorities without intervention or censorship by the authorities themselves. Without protection, the freedoms of speech and press are meaningless and the press becomes a mere channel for official thought.”
– Judge Arthur Tarnow, Dean v. Utica Community Schools

The Talking Points below, and the other materials in this package, might help clarify the importance of legislation protecting free speech and what the various terms – legal and educational – mean.

Points are used with permission from the Student Press Law Center, the Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee and JEA’s Principals and the Press initiative.

Talking points

• What do you mean that state legislation rolls back Hazelwood? Isn’t that illegal?

State legislation trumps Hazelwood because it adds to Constitutional guarantees of the First Amendment for all citizens, including students. In effect, it restores Tinker by rolling back Hazelwood.

A student editor of a school-sponsored publication in a state with these laws is entitled to both the protection of The First Amendment and the protection of the state law.  To put it another way, Hazelwood establishes the minimum level of high school press freedom that the First Amendment requires. No government official — federal, state or local — may act in a way, nor may lawmakers pass a law or policy, that provides individuals with less free speech protection than that required by the First Amendment, as interpreted in Hazelwood. Nothing, however, prevents state lawmakers from passing a law that requires school and government officials in their state to provide student journalists with more rights than the constitution requires.

• Aren’t the reasons for censorship in Hazelwood still censorable under this new legislation?

No. This legislation reverts to Tinker standards and unprotected speech: libel, material and substantial disruption, unwarranted invasion of privacy and obscenity.

• What are free and journalistically responsible student media?
Responsible student journalists strive for accuracy, completeness and balance to achieve and maintain credibility. The new legislation gives them a greater chance to achieve this practice.

Responsible scholastic journalists thoroughly gather and deliver coherent, accurate and complete content that serves their audience and its need to know – no matter what media platform they use.

Responsible students avoid unprotected speech — libel, unwarranted invasion of privacy, copyright infringement and obscenity – and language that causes a material and substantial disruption of the school day or advocates illegal use of drugs.

Students learn to pursue and act on those standards by making final decisions of content, without review or restraint by adviser or those outside the student media staff.

Administrators can improve their schools’ learning environment by providing open access to information and the freedom to choose topics and sources essential to communities’ various audiences. Responsible administrators empower their teachers to educate students on legal and ethical responsibilities, making prior review and censorship counterproductive and unnecessary.

As Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel say in “The Elements of Journalism,” journalists’ first responsibility is to the truth, and their loyalty is to the citizens they report for.

“Journalism provides something unique to a culture,” the authors write. “Independent, reliable, accurate and comprehensive information citizens require to be free.”

• What if the school has existing policy and school administrators say the law does not apply to existing policy?

New legislation would likely win out over existing policy if the policy were contrary to the wording and intent of the legislation. Prior review, however, might still be allowed so long as administrators or school officials just reviewed and did not demand change or make changes. Prior review, though, would have to be severely limited in terms of time. Read and return by the end of the school day is reasonable.

The SPLC’s Frank LoMonte said, “The (Illinois) legislation doesn’t say speech can be prohibited if the speech violates school policies – it says you can prohibit speech that incites students to violate district policies. I’m sure what they had in mind was stuff that incites people to violate disciplinary rules (truancy, tardiness) that are not actually ‘illegal.’” If a school were to ever actually say, ‘We have a school policy against criticizing the principal’ and tried to override HB 5902 on those grounds, we would gladly challenge it.

• What happens if an adviser is ill-prepared to properly guide students to make the “right” content choices?

We would urge advisers to make use of the myriad of materials available to them from multiple sources. The Student Press Law Center, The Freedom Forum, the national and regional scholastic press associations and the Journalism Education Association all have teaching and background resources. The Scholastic Press Rights Committee also urges advisers to work with students to design a journalistically  and educationally sound mission statement for student media, an editorial policy designating student media as public forums, journalistically responsible ethical guidelines that have clear processes students will follow.

All this is not just adviser and student responsibility. School boards and administrators also have an obligation to ensure advisers have adequate access to teaching materials and educational opportunities, including professional organization membership and workshops for teacher/adviser and students.

The reason we have professional organizations like JEA is to better prepare teachers, who may not be trained in journalism, for this important work. Just as some coaches may not have formal training to coach, student media advisers sometimes must learn on the job. This is not a reason to deny students the opportunity to have their voices heard by imposing administrative control over content, which only suppresses critical thinking and halts civic engagement; rather, it is a reason to encourage excellence and to support student responsibility by providing access to resources and training.

• How much is this going to cost schools?
Absolutely nothing. In fact, it might save districts money in the long run by protecting them from legal liability.

• Why shouldn’t students be subject to censorship? After all, commercial journalists are subject to editing.
Editors of commercial media news are not employed by the government; the work they edit is work-for-hire. Student journalists are not employed by the school. School administrators are, in fact, government officials. The First Amendment was crafted to protect U.S. citizens from government censorship. Student speech is protected by the First Amendment, as long as it is lawful and does not cause a “substantial disruption” of the educational process.

The Student Press Law Center provides the legal definition of what is considered, by law, to be “unprotected speech.”

Commercial journalists do not seek permission from their primary sources to publish information and, in fact, have a longstanding tradition of not letting sources see stories before publication. Administrators are primary sources for student journalists. The temptation to censor can be irresistible for administrators, especially in cases when they do not agree with the subject matter or fear that content might reflect poorly on them and their schools.

• Why should we limit the censorship authority of administrators over student media produced on school time with school resources?
Allowing genuine student media outlets that provide students with a meaningful voice on issues that truly matter to them can be a threatening idea to those used to controlling the message. However, we have a First Amendment because, as a nation, we decided that free and independent media play a vital role in our democracy – even if they sometimes are messier than state-controlled media. The fact that student media is produced using school resources does not empower administrators to dictate content. Advisers and administrators are responsible for teaching students so they can make informed content choices.

Fortunately, a number of administrators don’t look upon their student media as adversaries or threats. Instead, they view independent student media as important school assets. They see the value in providing students with forums to express their concerns, and recognize the educational opportunities provided by strong, well-supported student journalism programs.

• Are schools liable for content in student media?
There has never been a reported court decision where a public school or school district has been held legally responsible for content in student media. This legislation ensures that school districts and school administrators are protected from lawsuits. With this law, students would be legally responsible for content in their media – not school officials or school departments.

• Does this legislation give students the right to publish whatever they want?
No. This law does not protect unlawful speech – the same categories of speech that every journalist must avoid (libel, material that invades a person’s legal right to privacy, obscenity as to minors, etc.). The law also imposes an additional category of speech restriction specific to schools: High school students cannot publish speech that would materially and substantially disrupt normal school activities. This establishes a meaningful balance between administrative authority to maintain a safe and effective learning environment and student free speech rights.

• What about the questionable stories published in student media?
Such incidents have occurred, but they are certainly the exception rather than the rule. The majority of student media outlets practice journalism in a responsible manner.

The ability to cover important issues without censorship, promotes a safe and healthy school environment. Students don’t just complain about the cafeteria food. They confront real issues, especially those which are relevant to teens. While it may make administrators uncomfortable, students often cite real safety concerns in their schools. They may cite the need for repairs that have been ignored, especially those that are outside the public view to which students have access, such as locker rooms, student bathrooms and most classrooms. They often bring about change as a result of their vigilance, courage and honesty. The greater good of the students and staff superaedes the reluctance of administrators to hide the truth. They need to be held accountable by the public for not securing a facility properly. Often, board of education members will discover something that they all have read only in the school newspaper, and will investigate the matter once the conditions are exposed.

• What effects do free student media have on the school climate?
School communities need and deserve stories that reflect the authentic student experience. Giving students a voice actually can help guard against disruptive and potentially dangerous behavior by shedding light on issues of concern and empowering the powerless. In fact, coverage of sensitive and important issues often can effect positive change.

• Is there anything, legally, student journalists cannot print?
Yes. The First Amendment does not cover all forms of speech. According to the First Amendment Center, there are essentially nine types of unprotected speech: obscenity, fighting words, defamation (includes libel, slander), child pornography, perjury, blackmail, incitement to imminent lawless action, true threats, solicitations to commit crimes. For more information, click here.

• What does research report about student learning when they control student media?
A 2015 survey of more than 900 Kansas and Missouri high school journalists indicated students felt more confident about being an engaged and productive citizen where:
• School support of First Amendment protection empowers students
• Faculty and students respect and listen to each other fosters civic journalism
• Lighter teacher control yields greater student confidence
• More practice and experience creates confidence in promoting their involvement
• This matters because empowered student journalists said they felt they would be more critically involved in citizenship responsibilities.

Study results can be found at civicsandjournalists.org

 

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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

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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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Prior review and prior restraint

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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This online lesson guides students through the basics of prior review and prior restraint and the specifics of how it applies to student media. Almost every national journalism education group and professional journalism organization opposes prior review and restraint as having little to no educational value. A position on prior review is an essential part of a staff manual.

Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of prior review and restraint.
  • Students will compare and contrast prior review and restraint with journalism principles, ethics and decision-making.
  • Students will develop arguments to defend or oppose the use of prior review and restraint

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Length

Based on individual needs

Materials / resources

Prior review v. prior restraint  

Resources for teacher background

Model guidelines for policy choices

Easy access to policy models

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Suggestions for student media mission, legal, ethical and procedural language

Introducing a staff manual package to build a foundation for journalistic responsibility

Edit policy sets forum status

Ethics codes are invaluable in student journalism, but not as guide for punishment

How to use this guide for ethical use of staff manuals

Model for ethical guidelines

Takedown demands

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum

Talking points on prior review and restraint

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

Prior review v. prior restraint

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Guidelines, recommendations for advisers facing prior review

JEA defines prior review

Lesson step-by-step

Presentation – Day 1

The teacher will set up a discussion question for students about prior review and prior restraint. 

The prompt follows:

Read these definitions:

  • Prior review occurs when anyone not on the publication/media staff requires that he or she be allowed to read, view or approve student material before distribution, airing or publication.
  • Prior restraint occurs when someone not on the publication/media staff requires pre-distribution changes to or removal of student media content

Once students ponder the definitions, they should read Prior review v. prior restraint.

The teacher should post the following:

• Create two lists, one supporting prior review and the other opposed to it. Based on readings, previous class work and the definitions, list up to 10 reasons each to oppose or support prior review 

When they are satisfied, students would submit their lists to a third, blank, discussion board for use when they work to draft a prior review statement.

Presentation – Day 2 (Could be later or when working on staff manual)

Students will review their pro-con prior review statements and browse through Talking points on prior review and restraint

Using their review choices and other articles, students should each draft a prior review statement to be used with other manual statements on policy, ethics and procedure.

Assessment

Students should craft it as the focus for a short position paper:

            • In no more than 150 words, craft a position statement on how to talk with administrators about prior review..

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Forum status of student media

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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This online lesson guides students through the basics of forum status for student media and the specifics of how it applies to student media. A statement of forum status is an essential part of a staff manual.

Objectives

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of forum theories for student media.
  • Students will compare and contrast the forum theory concepts with journalism principles, ethics and mission.
  • Students will discuss and select a forum theory statement to pair with their mission, editorial policy and ethics statements.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Length

Based on individual needs

Materials / resources

When your publication is a public forum and when it is not

Choosing your forum status is like choosing the best medicine

Forum status of student media

Resources for teacher background

Model guidelines for policy choices

Easy access to policy models

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Suggestions for student media mission, legal, ethical and procedural language

Introducing a staff manual package to build a foundation for journalistic responsibility

Edit policy sets forum status

Ethics codes are invaluable in student journalism, but not as guide for punishment

How to use this guide for ethical use of staff manuals

Model for ethical guidelines

Takedown demands

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum

Talking points on prior review and restraint

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

Prior review v. prior restraint

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Guidelines, recommendations for advisers facing prior review

JEA defines prior review

Lesson step-by-step

Presentation – Day 1

The teacher will share this link with students. Students will have read this before class time. The teacher will also share this information:

• In the post-Hazelwood world, it is more important than ever for student journalists and their advisers to know what policies their school has adopted relating to student publications or student expression. 

The language of those policies (whether they give editorial control to students or keep it in the hands of school officials) and the amount of freedom that students have traditionally operated under at the school can determine whether Hazelwood or Tinker sets the standard for what school officials will be allowed to censor.

Three types of forums are open public, limited public and closed.

• A closed forum: An example of closed is a PTA newsletter. The owner of the forum can control its content. Censorship is allowed. Little learning about the role of a free press in a democracy would take place. Little learning about the various roles of journalism would take place.

• Students have no expectation of freedom of expression.

  • Students should have no expectation of learning news or objective journalism.
  • Students should have no expectation of creating original pieces.
  • Students should have no expectation of decision-making.
  •   Hazelwood applies

• A limited public forum: A limited forum can be limited to whatever the establisher of the forum wants it to be: a forum for sports coverage, for example. It can be reviewed, or not reviewed, by the originator’s designation. If reviewed, the owner of the forum has all the legal responsibility and control. If not reviewed, the students, for example, could be designated as being in charge and enjoy the freedoms and bear the responsibility. A good many student media fall into this category where school districts trust their students, their advisers and their curriculum. Students learn about the media’s role in a democracy, and about their own civic responsibility. If education about the media’s role in a democracy and learning critical-thinking and responsibility are the school’s mission, then the second type of limited forum is used.

Limited-closed:

• Students have no expectation of freedom of expression

• Students should have no expectation of learning news or objective journalism.

• Students should have no expectation of creating original pieces.

• Students should have no expectation of decision-making.

• Hazelwood applies.

Limited-open: 

• Students have an expectation of freedom of expression.

• Students should expect to learn news or objective journalism.

 •Students should expect to create original material

• Students should expect to make decision

 • Tinker applies if no prior review.

• An open public (designated) forum:  The third category is an open forum, much like speakers’ corner in the United Kingdom. Anyone can speak, and the school (government) bears no legal responsibility. Schools can designate student media as open forums by policy or practice. This is noted within the Hazelwood decision, as is a limited open forum with student decision-making control.

Open forums:

 • Students have an expectation of freedom of expression.

 • Students should expect to learn news or objective journalism

  • Students should expect to create original material.

 • Students should expect to make decisions.

 • Tinker applies if no prior review.

 Activity 1

Students will decide which of the following statements they would prefer for their student run media (keeping in mind the various platforms of print, broadcast, yearbook and digital should be under the same policies and their staff manual reflect that), and why they made that choice. 

Students will write their choice on the discussion board Student Media Forum Statement the teacher created. Students should choose the forum carefully and refer to it in the policy section of your staff manual. It might also play a role in development of Mission statement.

Statement 1: All school-sponsored student publications and productions are XXXXXXX forums.  While students may address matters of interest or concern to their readers/viewers, as XXXXXXX forums, the style and content of the student publications and productions can be regulated for legitimate pedagogical, school-related reasons.  School officials shall routinely and systematically review and, if necessary, restrict the style and/or content of all school-sponsored student publications and productions prior to publication/performance in a reasonable manner that is neutral as to the viewpoint of the speaker.  Legitimate pedagogical concerns are not confined to academic issues but include the teaching by example of the shared values of a civilized social order, which consists of not only independence of thought and frankness of expression but also discipline, courtesy/civility, and respect for authority.  School officials may further prohibit speech that is grammatically incorrect, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences.

Statement 2: [NAME OF SCHOOL] student media are designated public forums in which students make all decisions of content without prior review by school officials.

Freedom of expression and press freedom are fundamental values in a democratic society. The mission of any institution committed to preparing productive citizens must include teaching these values and providing a venue for students to practice these values, both by lesson and by example.

As preservers of democracy, our schools shall protect, encourage and enhance free speech and the exchange of ideas as a means of protecting our American way of life. (This choice can be supported with other students that enhance or explain the position)

Statement 3: The Board designates all school-sponsored student media, with the exception of those originating from classrooms or educational settings not otherwise directly associated with student publications and productions, as XXXXXXX forums whereby students can address matters of concern and/or interest to their readers/viewers. (Under this policy student journalists, content-creators and/or performers involved in these publications/productions have the right/or do not have the right to determine the content of the student media. Social media could be blocked/not blocked, depending on board decision) 

Activity 2

After students have chosen and sent their statements to the teacher, the teacher can distribute this information to students Or, save it for another lesson, say on what goes into a policy statement and what does not:

Importance of designated forum status

  1. There is no requirement that any government agency establish a forum of any kind.
  2. But once a government does establish a forum, it cannot dictate the content of that forum.
  3. Jurisprudence sees three types of forums: open, limited, closed.
  4. The closed forum is a place that traditionally has not been open to public expression. Examples, in schools, could be newsletters or other means of communication not open to public use. So long as restrictions are reasonable and not based on a desire to suppress certain viewpoints, the government may close public access to them.
  5. The open or traditional public forum is a place with a long history of expression, such as a public park or street corner. The government can only impose content-neutral time, place and manner restrictions on speech in this forum. To override the open, public forum status, the government would have to show a compelling interest.
  6. The limited forum has the most problematic history. It is a place with a limited history of expressive activity, usually only for certain topics or groups. A meeting hall or public-owned theater are examples. The government may limit access when setting up a forum but may still not restrict expression unless there is a compelling interest. Schools, as government institutions, may, by “policy or practice,” open student media for indiscriminate use by the public or some segment of the public.
  7. A designated public forum enables students to make decisions of content, thus empowering them to practice critical thinking and civic engagement roles.
  8. Educational value of the designated open forum is mirrored by the fact most schools have mission statements identifying these as essential life skills for students to learn while in school.
  9. Prior review and a lack of trust in the product (students) schools are expected to produce undermines the very missions school officials say are among their most important.
  10. Studies have clearly shown that students, and communities in general, do not understand the importance of the First Amendment. One reason may be that students are not allowed to practice what they are taught while in schools and thus do not believe the theories of the democratic system.

These definitions should help you understand public forums:

  • Forums by policy: An official school policy exists that designates student editors as the ultimate authority regarding content. School officials actually practice this policy by exercising a “hands-off” role and empowering student editors to lead. Advisers teach and offer students advice, but they neither control nor make final decisions regarding content.
  • Forums by practice: A school policy may or may not exist regarding student media, but administrators have a “hands-off” approach and have empowered students to control content decisions. Advisers teach and offer students advice, but they neither control nor make final decisions regarding content.

Assessment

Students should use their answer as the focus for a short position paper:

            • In no more than 150 words, craft a position statement why their choice would be best for all their audiences. Submit to the teacher for comment and further use.

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Re-examining the student media staff manual

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Staff manuals provide student journalists with resources and guidance during times of need. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate (and review) your current guidelines — and maybe even policies. These virtual conversations will not only help students understand what to do, but also what they may want to examine for future. 

Objectives

  • Students will examine their current media staff manual (if no manual exists, students should work to create one).
  • Students will discuss what might need updating or revising. 
  • Students will write and edit the current manual.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grades 11-12 here.)

Length

Basic level — 6 self-paced discussion board and collaborative doc activities

Materials / resources

Your current staff manual

JEA SPRC resource on staff manual

Rubric for student work

Way for students to collaborate online

Discussion board availability

Computer access

Annotation link for guideline example

Links for Activity 2

Forum status of student media

Prior review v. prior restraint

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?

Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Index of SPRC’s Quick Tips that will be beneficial for talking points for final activity.

Lesson step-by-step

Activity 1 — Mission statement discussion 

Teacher should upload the media mission statement found in the current staff manual in a discussion board. (If one doesn’t exist, students should work together to create one.) Teacher will then post the current mission statement of the student media. Ask students what they think might need to be altered.

Activity 2 — Mission statement part two 

When students have discussed, teacher could post a sample mission statement such as the one on the SPRC site:  

_____________ (school name) student media provide complete and accurate coverage, journalistically responsible, ethically gathered, edited and reported. Student-determined expression promotes democratic citizenship through public engagement diverse in both ideas and representation.

Ask students “what are the similarities and differences between the student media mission statement and the one posted”? What should the current mission statement be? Ask students to recraft as necessary. This could be done on a shared document if that is easier. 

Activity 3 — Policy statement 

Teacher should upload the current either board or student media level policy statement. Again through a discussion board, ask students to discuss what the strengths and weaknesses of this policy may be. 

Activity 4 — Policy statement comparative

Have the students compare the student media policy with what may be found at SPRC as well as look at the Quick Tips listed in the Resources above. Again, ask students to suggest changes to the current policy.

Activity 5 — Student choice

Students should brainstorm areas using a discussion board in which they might want to have ethical guidelines. Let them know that a great place to start is to think through any issues they had during the year. For example, what do you do when someone requests prior review of an article? Takedown request? Who can place an ad? They could also look to the current list in the manual for ideas. 

Teacher should form groups prior to Activity 6

Activity 6 — Group work (this step may be repeated if needed)

Ask students to post the current guideline and then examine its language while comparing it to the current language on SPRC. They should not only reexamine, but recraft as necessary using a shared document. This time, students should highlight the text and say why they made these choices. This will serve as a rough draft and starting point for the finalization of the manual.  

Guideline example (see annotation here):

Old:

Because student media is consumed by readers under the age of 18, we will not cover content that might be identified by our community as not adhering to common moral standards. The adviser will make the final decision in all cases.

SPRC sample:

Final content decisions and responsibility shall remain with the student editorial board. Student media will not avoid publishing a story solely on the basis of possible dissent or controversy.

New: 

The student media editorial board of (high school name here) will make all final decisions of content without prior review and restraint.

The board will not back away from covering a story because of possible controversy or arguments of readers. The goal is to provide the truth to an issue and robustly cover the students and staff of the school.  

Extension:

Teacher or editor could compile all the content suggested and rewritten by the students. Using a collaborative document, the teacher should set the share setting to “anyone with the link can comment.” Ask students to comment on one another’s work and ideas. Then, the editorial board could meet virtually to rework and rewrite as needed.

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