Pages Navigation Menu

Gagging students but not requiring masks

Posted by on Aug 8, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


by Jan Ewell, MJE

Hannah Watters, 15, suspended for five days, Wed. Aug. 5, for tweeting pictures of mostly maskless students in a crowded hallway at North Paulding High in Dallas, Ga, about an hour outside of Atlanta, is free to return to school Monday, Aug. 10.

Friday, Aug. 7, she tweeted, “My school called and they have deleted my suspension.” She added, “To be 100 percent clear, I can go back to school on Monday.” 

According to The Washington Post, county schools superintendent, Brian Otott, had acknowledged the images “didn’t look good,” but suggested they lacked context at the 2,000-student high school where masks were “a personal choice.”

Georgia had 200,000 recorded cases of Covid-19 as of Wednesday. Thursday the state death toll from the disease passed 4,000.

Hannah was suspended for violating the student code of conduct, which states students may not use social media during the day and they may not make recordings without permission of an administrator.

“The principal just said that they were very sorry for any negative attention that this has brought upon her,” The Post quoted her mother, adding ” that in the future they would like for her to come to the administration with any safety concerns.”

If all students who use social media during the school day receive five-day suspensions, even the students who post pictures of yummy lunches or of the morning Pledge of Allegiance, then the school probably did not violate Hannah’s rights. 

But if only certain types of speech—or pictures—warrant such severe punishment, then the policy is not content-neutral and is meant to stop only certain types of speech, in this case, speech that does not make the school look good.  

Likewise the policy that forbids photography would need to be content neutral to be constitutional — even selfies and buddy pic would need to receive five-day suspensions.

But even if content neutral, a policy forbidding photography is questionable. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas wrote in 1969 in Tinker v. Des Moines that neither students nor teachers “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” 

True, in places where students have a reasonable expectation of privacy, locker rooms, counselors’ offices, even classrooms, photography can be an invasion of privacy, and a school code of conduct may well forbid it. Or if the photographer substantially disrupted learning, that could also be forbidden. But a crowded hallway is a public space with no expectation of privacy, and students have the right to record the conditions there. 

Perhaps Superintendent Otott may wish to review Justice Fortas’s opinion, where he wrote, “In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students . . . are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect . . .  In the absence of a specific showing of constitutionally valid reasons to regulate their speech, students are entitled to freedom of expression of their views.”

At North Paulding High School, masks may be “a personal choice,” but so is documenting conditions there. 

Hannah Watters was well within her rights.

Additional resources:
Georgia school reverses suspension of teen who shared viral photo hallway packed with students
Viral photo of crowded Georgia high school hallway lacks context, superintendent says
SPLC condemns the suspension of Georgia students for posting photos of their crowded school during COVID-19
SPLC, joined by 28 orgs and individuals, sends letter of concern to N. Paulding High School admin and school board over free speech restrictions
Georgia COVID-19 deaths surpass 4,000 – Fox5 Atlanta

Read More

Working to develop ethical fitness

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


It’s the perfect storm as Covid-19, questions of police brutality and subsequent violent protestor response mix into an already seething atmosphere of political unease. Each of these issues alone could deeply stress scholastic journalism’s ethical framework.

Together, these and many other questions and incidents, will provide scholastic media students with challenges as they strive to become ethically fit as they bring national issues into local perspective.

Mark’s presentation dealt with legal rights and rules when covering protests. Ethical questions are more like whether students should report the incident. How report it? What if….

Information in this blog is created for a presentation to scholastic teachers, advisers and students Aug. 5 through remote connection to an AEJMC workshop. Please feel free to use it. Links are stories illustrating or about the ethical issue.

Law is “will;” ethics is “should.”

Ethical decisions likely will have varying possible solutions, with few rights or wrongs. Ethical thinking is often about the process as much as the decision.

Read More

If covering protests, note these points

Posted by on Jul 27, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


With the promised spread of federal agents to additional cities to protect federal buildings, student media will likely join protestors and commercial media in the streets.

Police and federal agents have, several times, injured not only protestors but also student media and those from commercial media groups.

To help student reporters and visual reporters better know how to avoid issues with authorities and to protect themselves, the Student Press Law Center released 20 important points to know. The SPLC also has other points as does JEA’s Student Press Rights Committee.

Other valuable information focused on reporting by 17-year-old Eddy Winford-Ross, a scholastic media editor at Portland’s South Salem High School. Here’s another article about Winford-Ross . Here’s another SPLC story about her, and more.

Other coverage that could provide contextual information about events and issues surrounding protests:
Photographers are being called on to stop showing protesters’ faces. Should they?
Leaf-blower wars: How Portland protesters are fighting back against tear gas and forming ‘walls’ of veterans, lawyers, nurses
Navy vet asked federal in Portland to remember their oaths. Then they broke his hand
A dangerous new factor in an uneasy moment: unidentified law enforcement officers

Read More

Hold the agenda

Posted by on May 10, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments


When information changes rapidly, give the public balance and verification to act on

by Stan Zoller, MJE

During the onslaught of media coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing reporters have been doing is meticulously checking the facts surrounding the outbreak, especially data emanating from the White House.

Student journalists need to follow the same standards as professional journalists. However, it is essential reporting is not only verified, but also balanced. 

As news about the pandemic seemingly changes hourly, reporters need to be vigilant in not just taking the word of a single source with a specific view, especially when details about the outbreak have a political overtone.

Welcome to a crisis in an election year. 

It seems clear that White House officials are not happy when counter points of view are reported by news organizations. The reality is, however, news consumers want and need to hear multiple sides of the story.

As news about the pandemic seemingly changes hourly, reporters need to be vigilant in not just taking the word of a single source with a specific view, especially when details about the outbreak have a political overtone.

While the facts, such as number of tests, deaths and new cases are quantifiable, explanations about data need additional sources, preferably those independent of ties to current or previous administrations.

Mainstream media has done an excellent job in seeking out researchers at major medical centers and universities for independent data. These sources augment your reporting through their independent research.  

It is, however, important to cite any underwriting they may be getting from corporations or foundations as this could skew the independence if the support is connected to a market or political strategy.

But what if there’s not a major medical research facility in proximity to your school? Seeking out experts near your school who can explain data, guidelines and other questions related to COVID-19 will add an excellent dimension to your reporting.

Not only will this give you independent sources, but it will also give you an opportunity to localize, if not hyper-localize, your coverage. While you want to keep your pandemic coverage balanced and independent, the same is true for coverage about political issues related to outbreaks.

It’s also important to make sure comments about the Administration’s handling of COVID-19 in the United States are balanced by comments from politicians on both sides of the aisle.

This is true not only for state legislators, but also for county and municipal officials as well.

Read More

Finding and using copyright-free artwork

Posted by on Apr 24, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Free License clip art attached. Image attribution required:

by Susan McNulty, CJE, The Stampede and The Hoofbeat adviser, J.W. Mitchell High School, Trinity, Florida

As scholastic journalism programs moved from classroom to homes this spring, students and advisers adjusted to a virtual newsroom. Just a few of the success stories of scholastic journalism across the country include Scarsdale High School’s MaroonThe Diamondback at the University of Maryland, and the Granite Bay Gazette at Granite Bay High School.

Yet student journalists confined to their homes lack the opportunity to capture photos to accompany their stories. They face the challenge of finding appropriate, copyright-free images and artwork to attract readers. Fortunately, free online sources exist to find the eye-catching artwork necessary to gain reader’s attention, while still observing copyright laws and providing proper attribution.

Here are four sources for copyright-free images and artwork for use by the public that do not require creation of an account, as well as links to additional sources and lessons that could be adapted for distance learning.

Google Advanced Image Search

Description: “When you do a Google Search, you can filter your results to find images, videos or text you have permission to use. To do this, use an Advanced Search filter called ‘usage rights’ that lets you know when you can use, share or modify something you find online.”

Directions: Fill in the blanks to complete your search. Select usage rights appropriate to meet your needs.

Google’s disclaimer: “Note: Before reusing content, make sure that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse. For example, the license might require that you give credit to the image creator when you use the image. Google can’t tell if the license label is legitimate, so we don’t know if the content is lawfully licensed.”

Google’s disclaimer: “Note: Before reusing content, make sure that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse. For example, the license might require that you give credit to the image creator when you use the image. Google can’t tell if the license label is legitimate, so we don’t know if the content is lawfully licensed.”

CC Search

Description: “CC Search is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone. Creative Commons, the nonprofit behind CC Search, is the maker of the CC licenses, used over 1.4 billion times to help creators share knowledge and creativity online.”

Directions: Use keywords to search for the artwork you need. On the left side, click Licenses and choose CC0 for “no rights reserved.”


Description: “High quality vector graphics with worry-free licensing for personal and commercial use.”

Directions: Use keywords to search for the artwork you need. On the left side, limit your search to Free License. Follow instructions for downloading and providing attribution if required


Description: “A vibrant community of creatives, sharing copyright free images and videos. All contents are released under the Pixabay License, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.”

Directions: Use keywords to search for the photograph you need. Click on the photo of your choice. Follow instructions for downloading and providing attribution if required.

Additional Resources: 

Student Press Law Center Student media guide to copyright law

10 Best Websites for Public Domain Images

High-res public domain photos that are 100% free

by Stacy Fisher

Find free-to-use images on Google

JEA Curriculum Lessons:

Understanding copyright and creative commons

SPLC media law presentation: copyright

Read More

Basic lessons for teachers to use during online learning

Posted by on Apr 5, 2020 in Blog | 1 comment


by Lori Keekley, MJE

Several members of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee developed some lessons for advisers to use with their journalism students. The lessons are intended to be asynchronous basic introductions. The goal is to introduce students to the content and provide resources they then can examine further. 

The lessons include information on the First Amendment, copyright, libel, staff manual creation, how to choose a forum concept, prior review and some situational legal and ethical considerations. 

First Amendment — Freedom of Speech rights, especially when it comes to students in any sort of student publication, can be very complex, but there are some overall principles that can lead to a solid understanding of the basics. This lesson provides details and background on what rights student journalists generally possess, gives resources for understanding how any local policies affect those rights and supplies scenarios and links to promote further discussion and involvement.

Copyright — This online lesson helps students independently learn the basics of copyright law and the exceptions to it. After a brief tutorial, students will then either draw or create an online infographic explaining what they have learned. 

Libel — This online lesson guides students through the basics of libel law and the specifics of how it applies to real-world situations. It includes a brief instructional video, a quiz for understanding, and a discussion/writing prompt.

Manual — 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. 

Forum status –– 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.

Prior review and restraint –– 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.

Legal and ethical scenarios — Teachers could do this as one scenario per day unit or sprinkle them throughout many weeks while addressing other areas as well. Topics covered include both legal and ethical concerns such as copyright, photo ethics, basic reporting, takedown requests, etc.

If you have any questions, please contact Lori Keekley

Other contributing committee members:

John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH)

Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park High School (MN)

Matthew Smith, CJE, Fond du Lac High School (WI)

Kristin Taylor, CJE, The Archer School for Girls (CA)

Read More