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Scenarios to help teach law and ethics remotely

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


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.


  • Students will make a legal or ethical choice based on current knowledge.
  • Students will then evaluate that decision based on resources provided
  • Students will alter or keep the original decision after examining resources. They will also provide reasoning for the final choice.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1.aIntroduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1.bDevelop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2.aIntroduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.


 Varies dependent on number of scenarios used.

Materials / resources

SPJ Code of Ethics


Rubric for scenarios 

Each scenario has a link to an existing SPRC resource, which has links to even more resources. 

If used with student media class, teacher should link to the current staff handbook. Teacher could also link to SPRC’s model handbook for students.

Lesson step-by-step

Activity 1 — Teacher upload, student discussion.

Upload the desired scenario in the discussion area of your course. Students should read and respond to the scenario. 

Activity 2 — Teacher post, student re-evaluation      

Teacher should upload the SPRC Quick Tip that addresses the scenario. Ask students to read and then re-evaluate their response. They should provide reasoning for either keeping the decision or adjusting their response. 


These scenarios are specifically for your course. You should opt for concepts students have struggled with in the past or that you or the students find interesting.

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Rubric for legal and ethical scenarios

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

Exceeds StandardsAt StandardsBelow Standards
Discussion board participationStudent interacted with others concerning the topic a minimum of two timesStudent interacted with others concerning the topic a minimum of two timesStudent didn’t interact with others in the collaboration stage
Reasons for decisionStudent robustly showed their reasoning on how and why the original decision should remain or be altered using the resource information providedStudent somewhat showed their reasoning on how and why the original decision should remain or be alteredLittle discussion evident
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Re-examining the student media staff manual

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


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. 


  • 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.)


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):


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.


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.  


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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Understanding the First Amendment and Student Press Rights

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


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.


  • Students will understand the specific sources of the rights of student journalists.
  • Students will recognize the most important details to consider when seeking to determine their own rights.
  • Students will appreciate what can be done to solidify and promote student press rights further.

Common Core State Standards

 CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.7Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.


50 minutes or could be done asynchronously

Materials / resources

Presentation: Student Press Rights Presentation

Handout: Student Press Rights Scenarios

Assessment Handout: Student Press Rights InDepth Response

Lesson step-by-step

Please note: You can do this lesson through a remote platform like Zoom, using breakout rooms for small group discussion. If you do not have video conferencing available, you can also send the presentation directly to the students via email or a posted discussion board and have them respond there. 

Step 1 — Introduction/Pre-Quiz (10 minutes) 

Briefly introduce the topic of student rights by testing students on the five questions at the start of the presentation. You may call on students for each possible answer for each one or require all students to write possible answers before revealing and discussing them. 

Step 2 — Presentation (25 minutes) 

Work through the middle portion of the presentation, attempting to come to a somewhat clear outline of what rights student journalists have. Feel free to invite discussion or ask for comments from students about what might work or not work or about what they know about their own school board and publication policies. Again, this can be done using video conferencing or students can view the presentation remotely and work in small groups over phones or email to discuss the cases.

Step 3 — Scenarios Groups and Full-Class Discussion (15 minutes) 

In a traditional classroom, you would have the scenarios printed out and cut up into squares, and then have students in groups (or individual, if preferred), discuss the scenario they have been handed. For a remote version of this lesson, you can share the four scenarios with the whole class, assign each a number and then assign students (either in groups in breakout rooms over video or on their own at home) to explore each one. Your follow-up on this step will depend on your platform. If you are using video conferencing, bring the class back into a central room and ask someone from each scenario to discuss their thoughts to each scenario one at a time, following the order in the presentation. (You may also just have the entire class discuss each one as a class.) The goal should be to find ways to apply the specifics laid out earlier in the presentation and to get into specifics about how your school does or should operate. There is not necessarily a single, correct answer to find.


If you have more time, you or the students may also visit some of the links throughout the presentation for more information or search for and discuss your own school board’s student publication policy and/or your publication’s editorial policy.


Look through responses to the “Student Press Rights InDepth Response” (explained, below, under “Extension”) for more specific and individual assessment.


You may use the “Student Press Rights InDepth Response” handout to force students to grapple in more depth with a more specific scenario. These can be completed and turned in individually and discussed, later, to see what different students thought and what reasoning they used.

You may have students write an op-ed piece about the importance and/or place of student journalists and student press rights and submit to the Student Press Law Center for its“Year of the Student Journalist” celebration:

If you have additional time or class periods, it would be excellent to guide your students through the creation of improvement of a publication editorial policy or through greater understanding of their own school board policy. If deemed necessary, students could contact the SPLC or the New Voices movement or the JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee to look for assistance/advice on getting the school board to improve its student publications policy, if deemed necessary.

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Copyright basics

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


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. 


  • Students will have a basic understanding of copyright law.
  • Students will understand exceptions to copyright law exists.
  • Students will demonstrate basic understanding of copyright law.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1.aIntroduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9.bApply grades 11-12 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., “Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning [e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court Case majority opinions and dissents] and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy [e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses]”).


Two Activities

Materials / resources

YouTube Copyright video or Student Press Law Center’s Copyright video 

Assignment description (Details in Activity 2 and on rubric)

Resource: What is What is Copyright 

Rubric for infographic/top 10 list

Lesson step-by-step

Activity 1 — Video and preparatory message

Teachers should post a small description of copyright. It could be something like this:

“This activity will introduce you to copyright through a video. The short video will explain the basics of copyright. Please know this complicated topic can easily be misapplied by many professionals (such as the notion you can take just a few seconds of a song and it’s not a copyright violation). Remember, this serves as a basic beginning to understanding.”

Resources for further knowledge can be seen at the bottom of the Resource: What is What is Copyright link. 

Teachers should upload either the YouTube Copyright video or Student Press Law Center’s Copyright video (depending on your student level). When finished with the video, students should read the information at the What is Copyright link.

Activity 2 — Assessment

Students will create their own graphic of your understanding including a headline, visual, basic definition, student journalism link, and exceptions to copyright law. Please put your sources at the bottom right-hand corner. Students could either use an online infographic app or draw it and take a picture to upload or send to the teacher.

If students have not studied infographics yet or if you are worried the assignment is too much for them, teachers could simplify the assignment by asking students to make a Top 10 list of what they learned from the selected video.

Teachers, please post the rubric with the assignment description. The rubric has the top option, but you could easily replace it for the second if desired.


The differentiation is in the video selected and assignment given. 

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Copyright rubric

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


Assignment review:

Create your own graphic of your understanding including a headline, visual, basic definition, student journalism link, and exceptions to copyright law. Please put your sources at the bottom right-hand corner. Students could either use an online infographic app or draw it and take a picture to upload or send to the teacher.

Exceeds StandardsAt StandardsBelow Standards
Includes a headline and visual and sources usedAll elements presentOnly two of three required elements presentOnly one required element present
Includes the basic definition in student’s own words and not copied and pasted from a documentStudent accurately rephrased the basic online definition into own wordsStudent mainly rephrased the basic online definition into own wordsStudent somewhat rephrased the basic online definition into own words 
Addresses the link to student journalismStudent showed the how and why student journalists should adhere to copyright lawStudent showed how the student journalist should adhere to copyright lawLink to student journalism missing
Includes exceptions to copyright lawStudent accurately rephrased the exceptions into own wordsStudent mainly rephrased the basic exceptions into own wordsStudent somewhat rephrased the basic exceptions into own words 
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