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Free expression sample press release

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



Sample press release

Another option for letting your various communities know about the benefits of free expression legislation is to create a press release to media, civic groups, school board and others.

Rather than trying to create a cookie-cutter press release version, we thought we would create a model sample where points from our legislative package and its resources could be melded into local comments and philosophy. The outline below is only a shell to which you and students can add specific approaches and activities and principles. 

Such a press release is designed to inform your communities about the legislation and its importance.


Your Name

                                                 Headline to fit your situation

Seize the day.

Make a Difference.

State legislation that promises student freedom of expression can help student journalists achieve that goal because of the educational, civic and journalistic responsibility it offers.

__________ (state name) just passed such a law and (add local information here. If in Illinois or Maryland, place a graph of two about the state legislation and effort and what it means. If attempting to pass legislation, focus on points how it will help education and civic engagement)

Information generated in student media where students practice what they have been taught, as protected by this legislation, will showcase the quality of the mission, policies and ethical guidelines of journalistically responsible students.

This legislation allows our journalism programs to train students who:

  • Make all final decisions of content
  • Practice civic and social responsibility
  • Present complete, thorough and accurate stories in context

(Quote from adviser, state journalism or legislative officials, etc.)

As journalists and journalism educators, we will do everything we can to present stories that are accurate, complete and thorough. We will inform our news consumers in a way that is not only transparent, but also independent and without bias using multiple sources.

(Talk here about how you and your students will carry out your program using editorial policy, ethical guidelines and journalistic responsibility.)

We will engage our audiences not only in the practice of journalism, but in civic activities that make a difference. (Perhaps provide examples.)

(Another local quote…)

Journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, authors of The Elements of Journalism and Blur, would put it this way: Journalism is storytelling with a purpose.  That purpose is to provide people with information they need to understand the world. The first challenge is finding information that people need to live their lives. The second is to make it meaningful, relevant, and engaging.

In a time when information abounds, although not all credible, when political speeches are fact-checked regularly and multiple sources of information are necessary to make sense of news, legislation for free student expression will aid all involved.

Here are some ways how:

For more specific details and information of the importance of such legislation please go to XXXXXXX and XXXXXX

For more information…..


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What to do if school officials
threaten censorship after legislation

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


What to do if school officials threaten censorship

sprclogoEven though state legislation can provide protection, sometimes others do not understand that and need further education. Use a friendly and informative approach and help them understand. Here are some steps we recommend.

  • Share a copy of the law and explain the language and meanings in educational civic and legal terms and benefits to the various communities.
  • Use your Talking Points, bill terminology and other supportive arguments to emphasize key points and arguments for student free expression.
  • Ask challengers to state their specific arguments in writing so you can respond
  • Contact SPLC, use the SPRC Panic Button for legal, ethical and educational advice and support.
  • Contact the legislators who proposed the bill and seek their involvement.
  • Respond to challengers’ arguments with logical and documented points and seek further time for discussion.
  • Contact additional legal and educational sources for support and resources.
  • Share print and online resources like New Voices Facebook pages.
  • Keep the dialogue meaningful.
  • Invite questioners to journalism meetings, including editorial board meetings, so they can see how student decision-making works.

If the educational approach does not seem to work, try other approaches.

  • As necessary, share the story of the censorship and legislative background with local and state media. Ideally, you have already shared information and explanation about the legislation with media after it passed
  • Enlist community and parental booster groups of your student media for their active intervention


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Tips for reaching out to communities
for info on student free expression

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


Foundations_mainSteps students and advisers can use to help others understand the importance and need for student and free student expression
With new legislation, or attempts to pass it, comes the need for ways to engage those who would support it. The ways can run from concept to concrete and can be delivered in many approaches with details determined locally.

  • Convert or update your editorial policy so it reflects your public forum status and explain why that status is important
  • Know the law in your state and have policy and practice correspond to it
  • Know your school board policies and know how to bring them into line with changes in state law
  • Hold a forum for your community/administrators/students to share information. Student media leaders could also invite questions and provide guidance
  • Establish a strong network of alumni, parents and community members to help spread the value of free student expression and to assist you with problems
  • Prepare an op-ed piece for your community media about the importance of free student media
  • Maintain an active and informed voice opposing censorship wherever it occurs
  • Blog what your students will do, as protected by a state free expression law, to prevent fear of irresponsible journalism. This could include discussion of media mission, policy, decisions, ethical guidelines and staff manual process
  • Endorse the use of adult blogs and social media to show now that students have freedom of expression they will uphold standards of journalistic responsibility.
  • Don’t self-censor. Know what to publish that is meaningful content, and how and why to do so effectively
  • Empower your students, through their decision-making, to practice socially responsible journalism and to know the difference between sound and unsound journalism so they can better teach their communities
  • Invite the various groups into your newsroom to see students at work
  • Explain what terms like forum, etc., mean and how they will work with students making decisions
  • Develop Talking Points on the educational and civic values of free student expression
  • Create a press release based on a model release in this package
  • Stress social responsibility across platforms in journalism: truth, accuracy , content and completeness
  • Use the Panic Button to reach JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee if you need additional assistance
  • Remember three additional points:

–Your credibility as student media rests not on Hazelwood and review, but on journalistically responsible, ethical and complete reporting

–Journalism is at the core of democracy. If students learn that control trumps freedom because of decisions like Hazelwood and its practices, then democracy crumbles, bit by bit

–Communities cannot be informed, or act upon the information they have if it is limited, controlled or distorted by prior review or censorship

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Terms connected with
student free press legislation

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



Terms concerning free expression legislation

  • Prior review is the practice of school administrators – or anyone in a position of authority outside the editorial staff – demanding that they be allowed to read (or preview) copy prior to publication and/or distribution.

Prior review itself is a form of prior restraint. It inevitably leads the reviewer to censor and student journalists to self-censor in an effort to assure approval. An officially designated adviser, when working with students and offering suggestions for improvement as part of the coaching and learning process, who reads or views student media content before publication is not engaged in prior review. However, when an adviser requires pre-distribution changes over the objections of student editors, his/her actions then become prior restraint.

This state legislation does not prevent prior review. However, every major journalism education organization have spoken against it, saying it has no educational value and is only the first step toward censorship.

  • Prior restraint occurs when school officials – often after they have read material (prior review) – do something to inhibit, ban or restrain its publication.

Prior restraint prevents a complete and often factual story or set of facts from being told.

It often prevents an accurate account of the topic or issue from being told

  • Forum for student expression

A public forum is created when school officials have “by policy or by practice” opened a publication for use by students to engage in their own free expression.

In the Hazelwood decision, the Court said it believed both the policy and practice at Hazelwood East High School reflected school officials’ intent to exercise complete control over the student newspaper’s content. That finding prompted the Court to say a designated public forum did not exist.

Nevertheless, student publications at other schools with different policies and different practices relating to editorial control can be public forums. Where student editors have been given final authority over content decisions in their publications or where a school policy explicitly describes a student publication as a designated public forum, the Tinker standard will still apply.

If you’re developing a new policy or altering current policy to reflect changes in state law, the Scholastic Press Rights Committee recommends using language that reads something like this:

[Name of publication] is a designated public forum for student expression. Student editors make all content decisions without prior review from school officials. 

  • Public forums by policy: An official school policy exists that designates student editors, within clearly defined limitations (no libel, obscenity, etc.), as the ultimate authority for determining content. (A publication’s own editorial policy does not count as an official school policy unless some school official has formally endorsed it.) School administrators 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.
  • Public forums by practice: A school policy may or may not exist regarding student media, but administrators take a hands-off approach and empower students to control content decisions. For some period of time, there has been no act of censorship by administrators and there is no required prior approval of content by administrators. Advisers teach and offer students advice, but they neither control nor make final decisions regarding content. (Principals Guide)

This link describes the types and is basis for summary to be added here:   

Read this article by Mark Goodman on forum status:  

       • Journalistic responsibility

Administrators like to talk of responsible or accountable student media. We agree, but want to couch the terms this way: journalistic responsibility.

Journalistic responsibility includes accuracy, context, completeness and verification.  Your first responsibility, as student journalists, is to present truth as best you can find it to your various communities in such a way that empowers them to make effective decisions that enhance democracy.

Such a definition precludes prior review, prior restraint and other limitations that would distort or render student reporting inaccurate or inaccurate.

  • Codes of ethics

Codes of ethics are recommended journalistic guidelines. As such they propose journalistic practices akin to professional standards. But, they are not requirements. No professional journalism organization forces its members or practitioners to adhere or to follow them.


JEA’s Adviser Code of Ethics establishes Best Practices for teaching and advising journalism and student media. NSPA’s Student Code of Ethics is but one model code for students. Another, used by many student media as a model is the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

JEA recommends establishing a board -level editorial policy, media mission statement, media-level policy, media codes of ethics for students with a strong staff manual on the processes students will use to practice ethical guidelines.

The policy statements should show student media as designated public forums for student expression where students make all final decisions of content without prior review. For detailed information on wording and process for these guidelines, go to the SPRC’s Foundations package.

Relevant court cases

  • Tinker: The Tinker Standard (1969) protects student speech unless it is libelous, an invasion of privacy or creates a “clear and present danger” or a “material and substantial disruption” of the school. 
  • Hazelwood: The Hazelwood decision (1988) allowed administrators to easily justify censorship of legitimate speech in curricular settings. The following states have this protection. Click on each state to see their law.

Common legal definitions (as defined by the SPLC):

  • Libel: Any published communication – words, photos, pictures, symbols – that falsely harms a person’s reputation.  Libel is written; slander is spoken defamation. A five of these elements must be present for there to be libel: publication, identification, harm, falsity and fault. Provable truth is an absolute defense against libel.
  • Invasion of privacy: The right to privacy is not explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution, and not all elements recognized by all states. The four types of invasion of privacy are: Public disclosure of private and embarrassing facts; Intrusion; False light and Misappropriation
  • Obscene as to minors: True obscenity is not protected speech; identifying it easier said than done. Profanity and nudity are not in themselves obscene. To be determined as obscene,  something must meet all three tests: material has no serious literary, political, artistic or scientific content; predominantly appeals to the prurient, shameful or morbid interest of mines and patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable for minors and is utterly without social importance for minors
  • Material and substantial disruption: The Tinker standard. Claims of material and substantial disruption must have factual support, which can include “reasonable forecast” of disruption “Undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance” or a “mere desire” to avoid unpopular views does not qualify. Sometimes referred to as “clear and present danger” in legislation.

Specific legislation language (Illinois)

  • School official: A school principal or his or her designee
  • School sponsored media: Any material prepared, substantially written, published or broadcast by student journalists and available to others outside the classroom
  • Student journalist: Any public high school journalist who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media

• Student media adviser: An individual employed, appointed or designated by a school district to supervise or  provide instruction relating to school-sponsored media.


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No one lives in a Hazelwood state

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in Blog, Hazelwood, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 1 comment


sprclogoby Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE

The first time a journalism teacher in a convention session asked for advice because she lived “in a Hazelwood state,” I know I frowned. What? You may be in a state that doesn’t protect student speech, but how would that make you a Hazelwood state?

The important news is — it doesn’t.

In 1969 when Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District said students don’t shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate, this meant all students — it was a protection.

But Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) didn’t overturn Tinker. And it didn’t say schools HAD to censor or prior review. In fact, eventually we have found some pretty big loopholes. For one thing, your state CAN pass legislation that protects student speech, as North Dakota did in April 2015 to join the other nine states that have laws (and two that have education codes). This new surge of interest in legislation has emerged in more than 21 states, with many adopting the New Voices name.

[pullquote]The more we can do to discourage school officials from seeing Hazelwood-supported censorship as an obligation but instead perceiving it as an embarrassment, the better off scholastic journalism will be.  Avoiding the ‘Hazelwood state’ moniker is one way to do that…Mark Goodman[/pullquote]

But even if your state doesn’t offer such protection, you have options. For one thing, you can operate as an open forum for student expression, either by your board policy or by your own practice of having students make content decisions and avoid prior review.

As former SPLC director Mark Goodman, now Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism and professor at Kent State, said, “It goes back to the fact that Hazelwood never requires censorship by school officials.  Too many people misread or misinterpret Hazelwood as being a directive as opposed to a permission.”

He pointed out that even in these so-called “Hazelwood states” many student journalists have strong First Amendment protection as a result of their school’s policy or practice of designating them as a public forum.

“The more we can do to discourage school officials from seeing Hazelwood-supported censorship as an obligation but instead perceiving it as an embarrassment, the better off scholastic journalism will be.  Avoiding the ‘Hazelwood state’ moniker is one way to do that,” Goodman said.


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Following – and creating –
New Voices in the land

Posted by on Oct 29, 2015 in Blog, Hazelwood, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Foundations_barNew Voices campaigns, inspired by the successful John Wall New Voices Act of North Dakota, continue to grow across the country.
Developed by journalism students and advisers and supported by scholastic journalism organizations, these groups want to give voice to student journalists by creating legislative reform.

So far, five states have established campaigns and many more are in discussions. Those states are:
New Voices of Minnesota
New Voices of Maryland
New Voices of New Jersey
New Voices of Illinois
New Voices of Michigan

In other legislative news, scholastic journalism supporters in Washington have talked with a potential Republican sponsor in Washington as they work toward proposing new legislation. Wisconsin is also working on legislation but does not have a digital site yet.

Visit for more information and news about these fledgling groups.
For more detailed information about the legislative process, check out these resources:
Check out the Facebook pages for these five groups.
Like their cause.
Look at the resources for legislation.
Think about adding your voices to New Voices across the country.




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