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A pillar of strength: the Tinker decision


Mary Beth Tinker takes pictures at Kent State University’s May 4 Visitor’s Center of exhibits from the sixties. The center documents the era as its protests and time of anti-war expressiion foreshadowed the deaths of four Kent State students.

We realized as we were creating content ( see Lori Keekley’s blog) to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tinker case, we have so much relevant material. Here are a  few by category.


What’s in Your State Press Law?, by John Bowen and Lori Keekley: As New Voices laws spread across the country to protect student journalists, help your students understand what their state does or does not cover when it comes to student press rights. Students will examine their own law and create a dialogue with stakeholders about the benefits of protecting student publications

.Fake News: Tools of Truth page   Given the importance of knowing how to deal with fake, deceptive and misleading information, we developed this set of lessons.

Takedown demands (John Bowen, 2014): This lesson addresses how to handle takedown requests. Students will work through two scenarios and then create a takedown request policy.

The Importance of an Independent and Active Press (Matthew Smith, 2017): Expose students to the many possible benefits of independent media in a democracy through quotes and video excerpts of world leaders espousing the necessity of a free press. Students will evaluate and discuss their own reaction to these arguments.

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint (Jeff Kocur, 2015): Click here for the activity.For additional resources and model ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures for this, go here and here.

Examining the gray area between political correctness and free speech (Matthew Smith, 2016): Students will explore several topics through peer discussion and real-world examples in small groups followed by a large-group discussion. By Matt Smith

Student expression rights: What are they, really? (by Matthew Smith): Guide your students through how the First Amendment protections apply to student speech, especially when it comes to walkouts, dress, and publication related to protest.

Sharing Your State Law with Others, by John Bowen and Lori Keekley: State laws protecting student press rights mean nothing if students, administrators, school boards and others don’t know what they mean or how they impact the community. For this lesson, students will create an action plan for the various groups in their community about the state legislation.

Political correctness and free speech (John Bowen) Students examine the gray area between political correctness and free speech through peer discussion and real-world examples.

Write a Constitution Day letter to the editor (by Jeff Kocur): Have your students engage with your local newspaper to share their free expression experiences as a student in your school or community. Resources include prompts as well as an assessment rubric.

Recent blogs

Being proactive Have discussions with administrators and other stakeholders before a problem arises. The blog provides pointers on how to avert the issue and how to seek help when one arises. Proactivity can help face a challenge.
Stan Zoller:

Email or letter writing campaign The semester break might be a great time to contact  the faculty and staff to thank them for their support, to reinforce that the publication is, in fact, student-run (despite being a student newspaper, many community members  assume that I make editorial decisions) and to guide their concerns and communication directly toward student editors.
Lindsay Coppens

Why we should encourage students to use their voices In this time of the president calling the press the enemy of the people, it’s time to embrace covering issues important to your community instead of shying away from them. This inspirational blog addresses the importance of doing this.
Cyndi Hyatt:

Importance of voice (diversity) If we want to gain and keep public trust and robustly cover our students, we must renew the effort of having newsrooms reflective of our schools. This blog examines Columbia Journalism Review’s fall 2018 issue and the some of the background leading up to the coverage.
Candace Perkins Bowen:

Bringing light to relevant issues defines journalistic leadership Fifty years ago, The U. S. Supreme Court upheld students wearing of black armbands as protected speech during the Vietnam war. That war also spawned events and issues that continued to bring activists, protesters and media together.

The war brought new levels of violence against expression some called unAmerican. “America, love it or leave it” was a forerunner of today’s “Enemy of the State.” Such verbiage frustrated citizens who sought the truth about issues: The Pentagon Papers. MyLai 4. Lt. William Calley. May 4, 1970. The impact of drugs.

2018 and 2019 highlight a tumultuous new era with key similarities to the past.
John Bowen

Legal and ethical concepts

Prior review As journalism teachers, we know our students learn more when they make publication choices and that prior review or restraint do not teach students to produce higher quality journalism. As journalism teachers, we know the only way to teach students to take responsibility for their decisions is to give them the responsibility to make those decisions freely. As journalism teachers, we know democracy depends on students understanding all voices have a right to be heard and knowing they have a voice in their school and community.


Now might be the time to delve into what issues you might see happening on the horizon. You can find the entire manual foundations package here. Based on the JEA listserv, here are some additional topics from the year and a few of our favorites:

Takedown requests As more student newspapers move to digital platforms, editors and advisers are facing a new and insidious form of post-publication censorship: takedown requests. The requests usually go something like this: “I was a student at [fill in name] high school [fill in number] years ago, and I was interviewed/wrote a story/was in a photo/made a comment that I regret now. I don’t want this showing up in Google searches. Please remove this story from your site.”

Who owns content  Scenario: Student journalists have just completed their first converged media assignments and are just about ready for publication across the various platforms. Several indicate they think their work is good enough to share with other groups.Can they legally or ethically do that with repercussion?

By Mark Goodman

Unnamed/anonymous sources  Ethical guidelines Journalism is based on truth and accuracy. Using unnamed sources risks both of those standards. For that reason, students should seek sources willing to speak on the record. Unnamed sources should be used sparingly and only after students evaluate how the need for the information balances with the problems such sources create. and

Who makes content decisions With scholastic journalism’s expansion into social media and use the latest bells and whistles involving multimedia, it is equally, if not more important, to be solid first in journalism basics. Four such basics are: leadership, content, standards and roles for making decisions. , and

Quick Tips

Also, if you’re looking for quick information about a topic, please see the list that can be found here. (We have information on more than 90 topics). We have possible guidelines and further spots for research at each of these in case you want to learn more.  and

Other SPRC resources:

Looking for talking points to use with administrators concerning censorship? See this link for ideas.


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