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Localizing Book Banning, 2023 Constitution Day Activity

Posted by on Sep 17, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Localizing Book Banning, 2023 Constitution Day Activity


Created by Scholastic Press Rights Director Kristin Taylor, MJE

Focus: One of the key skills of a good reporter is the ability to localize national news. This activity can be used on Constitution Day as part of a larger discussion of students’ access to information or another time as practice localizing news.

The topic: Rising instances of book bans across the United States.

Research: Remind students that the first step in localizing a national story is to do their research. You can either give them time in class or assign the research as homework. Here are some sources for initial research:

Discussion: Have students discuss their findings, separating facts from opinions in the various sources and what they learned about their own state’s laws or local news connected to book bans.

Localization: From here, students should brainstorm possible approaches to a localized version of the story. How are book bans impacting your school or community? Have any books been added or removed from your school or town library? Has the school curriculum changed or been adjusted because of pressure from the community? 

Students should engage in the normal reporting process, collecting data through surveys, seeking expert sources (librarians, curriculum specialists, town and state officials) and weaving their national research into their local reporting for a feature article or broadcast. Whether they map out a plan for an article as practice or actually create it for publication is up to adviser/editor discretion.

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A message from Marion: Attacks on press freedom have no limits

Posted by on Sep 4, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on A message from Marion: Attacks on press freedom have no limits


By Stan Zoller, MJE

The next time you’re grousing because an administrator wants to review a story or, worse yet, an entire issue of your student publication, think of Eric Meyer.

            And what the heck, think of Joan Meyer too.

            Do the names ring a bell? Hopefully, but sadly, they should.

            Eric Meyer is the editor and publisher of the Marion County Record which saw its offices raided by Marion, Kansas police and all of its equipment, records and notes grabbed.

            They also raided the home of Joan Meyers, Eric’s 98-year-old mother, co-owner and matriarch of the Record.

            The stress of the raid of both the Record’s office and her home was reportedly a contributing factor to her death on Aug. 12, a day after the raids.

            So, what does this have to do with scholastic journalism?


            I bristle when someone says “Oh, they’re just high school journalists.”

            Let’s clarify that. Scholastic journalists are journalists who just happen to be in high school. And while they may be enamored with attending conferences, entering contests and winning awards, the root of it all is this: Scholastic journalists are practicing journalism.

            They are not immune to the barrage of attacks on journalism and journalists. The raids on the Marion County Record and the Meyers’ home, which Eric Meyer shared with his mother, is an assault on journalism as a whole.

            Whether it’s a large urban paper, a local suburban newspaper, a well-funded high school paper, or a bare-bones publication in an inner-city school, the raids in Marion, Kansas hit home.

            Obviously, they were an assault on the First Amendment. No one can, or should, argue that. More so, experts are noting that the raids were also an assault on the Fourth Amendment.

            Marion, Kansas is a town of around 2,000 people, the size of many United States high schools. The Marion County Record, by virtue of reaching outside Marion’s city limits, has a circulation that eclipses 4,000, a number that has grown since the raids. Papers of all sizes are subject to assaults on press freedom.

            In addition to First and Fourth amendment rights, the raids seemingly violated Kansas’ FOI laws.

            So why is this important to scholastic journalists and scholastic journalism programs? FOI and Sunshine laws do not carry age requirements as they are  in place to enhance openness and transparency by government agencies, whether village boards, city councils, school boards, park boards, county boards or state legislatures.

            A stellar piece posted on Aug. 14 by Tom Jones, senior media writer for the Poynter Institute, explicitly and elegantly details the impact of the raids on press freedom. It should be required reading in all scholastic journalism classrooms. Also worth taking a look at is the PBS Newshour interview with Eric Meyer, also on Aug. 14. To no surprise, his thoughts are compelling.

            Professional media doesn’t have the Student Press Law Center to go guide and support them. Instead, they need to rely on resources such as the Society of Professional Journalists’ Legal Defense Fund, which provides resources to fight situations like those endured by the Marion County Record.

            All of the sites offer insights and resources about the assault facing journalism whether, as mentioned, it’s a high school newspaper, yearbook or a major media outlet.

            At the end of the day, journalists are all in this together.

            For scholastic journalists, it may be a somewhat arduous fight if prior review or prior restraint shows its ugly head.

            But unfortunately, at the end of the day, it’s everyone’s fight.

            The reality is this: scholastic journalists must not only learn about journalism, they must vigilantly practice it and, now more than ever, defend it.

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Back-to-School-Blues? Look for your “why”

Posted by on Aug 12, 2023 in Blog, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | Comments Off on Back-to-School-Blues? Look for your “why”


by Kristin Taylor, Scholastic Press Rights Director

“I’m just a teacher, standing in front of August, asking it to be July 1.” 

My friend and fellow press rights advocate Adriana Chavira posted that statement, which plays on the famous line from the rom-com “Notting Hill,” on social media last week, and I did the kind of laugh-sob so many teachers do this time of year.

I promptly stole it for my own feed. 

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Be Bold on Student Press Freedom Day

Posted by on Feb 23, 2023 in Blog | Comments Off on Be Bold on Student Press Freedom Day


by Kristin Taylor, MJE, JEA scholastic press rights director

Today is Student Press Freedom Day, a national day of action when student journalists in the United States raise awareness of the challenges they face, celebrate their contributions to their schools and communities, and take actions to protect and restore their First Amendment freedoms.

The theme this year is Bold Journalism, Brave Advocacy. I can’t think of a time when we need boldness and bravery more than now, with so many attempts to legislate critical thinking. So many school libraries are facing censorship, anti-LGBTQ legislation is targeting schools and Florida even banned the new AP African American Studies class (and, more disturbingly, the College Board bowed to those demands.)

But take hope in our student journalists. They aren’t waiting for professional newsrooms; they are localizing these controversial stories, digging deeper into the impact of censorship and attempts to legislate thinking. Just look at Caroline Caruso reporting on book bans in her school, Kaden Bryant or Ceclia Cheng, reporting on the AP African American Studies course ban, or Brennan Mumper reporting on the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. 

Our student journalists are essential voices in our democracy, and it’s time to celebrate the schools who champion their free speech. 

For the past 23 years, a panel of judges representing JEA, NSPA and Quill & Scroll have come together to read two rounds of applications to determine which schools are honoring the First Amendment through their support of a free student media program.

We at SPRC are thrilled to recognize 16 schools for their support of their student journalists. As the FAPFA committee read through the applications, we were struck by some of the administrators’ comments about the importance of a free student press. As I did last year, I want to share some of those excerpts of school leaders who get the importance of Bold Journalism and Brave Advocacy.

  • “As principal, I feel honored to work in a community that honors First Amendment principles. I see how these principles modeled by our student run journalism extends to other corners of our school community. MTHS is an organization that respects student voice and will look to listen before acting. … Celebrating journalism has been part of the MTHS fabric for a long time.” -Principal Greg Schellenberg, Mountlake Terrace High School
  • “Loudoun Valley has a strong tradition in student journalism. …It is our perspective that the First Amendment strengthens our teaching and learning approaches because of our belief in its importance in journalism as well as in student engagement, student voice, and student choice in our school and school community.” -Principal Susan Ross, Loudoun Valley High School
  • “We are truly proud of the work our journalism program has done in the past several years, building on a previously existing culture of the core values of respect, responsibility, courage, curiosity, doing your best and integrity found at the core of our program. After being recognized last year by the JEA we are proud to continue this work into the future and only grow better for our students and community.” -Associate School Director Joshua Hugo, DSST Montview High School
  • “I am so proud of the work of our student journalists! A hallmark of a CESJDS education!” -Principal Lisa Vardi, Charles E Smith Jewish Day School
  • “I would like to note that our school and district Mission Statement includes the words: ‘Open expression is encouraged.’ Further, it states, ‘Our goal is to advance our students’ growth into principled, informed, and capable citizens who will help guide a democracy that follows humanitarian principles in the global forum, and shape a just society where individuals may reach their full potential.’ Our school culture is largely based on this mission and reflects our students’ understanding of, and respect for, the First Amendment.” -Principal Allyson Mizoguchi, Wayland High School
  • “West Springfield High School believes that students do not ‘shed their First Amendment Rights at the schoolhouse gate.’ West Springfield High School has an open communication with our student journalists and publication producers that encourages their exploration and investigation into areas that are directed by their interests.” -Assistant Principal Shannon Matheny West Springfield High School
  • “I see our journalism programs as a great learning experience for students and part of that learning experience includes taking ownership of their work. As a result, the students learn 21st century skills that are part of Fairfax County’s Portrait of a Graduate goals, including collaboration, communication, ethical decision-making, critical and creative thinking, and resilience. Supporting journalism students’ freedoms enables them to do their best work.” -Principal Ellen Reilly, McLean HS
  • “As with all programs and clubs at our school, we believe in the power of student initiative. Our job is to educate and empower students to do their best in whatever field they pursue. Our journalism program upholds this vision, and, through education and skill development, enables our students to produce high quality publications that are completely student driven. Our publications are pure representations of who they are, what they value, and what they are curious about as teenagers in Silicon Valley in the early 2020s. We are proud to offer them this opportunity to fully express their lives.” -Assistant Division Head Kelly Horan, The Harker School

The FAPFA winners were announced today at noon CT on If your school isn’t yet among the lucky on that list, know that we here at SPRC are here to support you and your student journalists. Perhaps sharing some of these administrative statements might start a dialogue with school leaders who need a little push to see the value of free student media programs. 

Be bold, scholastic journalists! 

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Apply now for 22nd annual FAPFA recognition

Posted by on Dec 2, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


It’s again time to apply for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award. All first round applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CST Dec. 15.

In its 22nd year, the recognition is designed to identify and recognize high schools that actively support and protect First Amendment rights of their students and teachers. 

Schools will be recognized in April 2021 and will receive a plaque to display.

To be recognized as a First Amendment Press Freedom school, schools must successfully complete two rounds of questions about the degree of First Amendment Freedoms student journalists have and how the school recognizes and supports the First Amendment.

Entries will be evaluated by Quill and Scroll, National Scholastic Press Association and Journalism Education Association.

Round 1 consists of a student editor and adviser or administrator answering questions. 

In Round 2, semifinalists are asked to provide additional responses from the principal and advisers and at least two student editors. Semifinalists also will submit samples of the publications and their printed editorial policies.

If you have questions, please contact Kristin Taylor, MJE, Scholastic Press Rights director.

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