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Expand coverage of issues while celebrating Student Press Freedom Day, SJW this week

Posted by on Feb 21, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Expand coverage of issues while celebrating Student Press Freedom Day, SJW this week

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by John Bowen, MJE

Hopefully, scholastic journalism will be a week of celebration of student achievements and planned educational activities for those in various local communities.

If you haven’t already engaged your communities about how national issues affect local stories, this week would be a good time to create more awareness of important local issues, some of which might be considered controversial –– or part of student media’s social responsibility.

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Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Policy Statement of Policy

Posted by on Feb 18, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Policy Statement of Policy

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The Lion’s Tale – Press Rights Protocol

I. Introduction/Statement of Policy

Freedom of expression and press freedom are fundamental values in a democratic society. As an educational institution committed to preparing engaged and responsible citizens, the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School believes in teaching students these values, both by lesson and by example. 

CESJDS is committed to promoting pluralism, ethical decency, and responsible citizenship, as well as developing other attributes and skills listed in the School’s Portrait of a Graduate. In keeping with these values, this protocol promotes the free expression of student opinions in an open manner and through respectful dialogue, something that is encouraged within the school and Judaism.

Student exercise of freedom of expression and press freedom is protected by both state and federal law, especially by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. School administrators and advisers encourage and will ensure freedom of expression and press freedom for their  students. 

This protocol represents CESJDS’s dedication to empowering students and providing them with opportunities to grow. It will enable the administration to address what we view as a historic wrong: the overturning of students’ First Amendment rights under Hazelwood V. Kuhlmeier, as well as the exclusion of private schools under the New Voices Legislation passed by the State of Maryland in 2016.

It is hereby the policy of the CESJDS administration and The Lion’s Tale, the official, school-sponsored and funded student newspaper of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, that the publication is a forum for student expression to encourage the uncensored, robust, free and open discussion of issues. The Lion’s Tale student journalists shall have the right to determine the content of their publication and website. Student editors make all content decisions, and such decisions are not within the CESJDS administration’s purview to determine.

The Lion’s Tale, in all its forms, including, but not limited to print editions, online posts and social media, should provide a full opportunity for students to inquire, question and exchange ideas. Content should reflect areas of student interest, including topics about which there may be dissent or controversy, either within the student body and/or between the student body (or parts thereof) and school administration.

II. Official Student Media

A. Responsibilities of Student Journalists

Students who work on The Lion’s Tale determine the content of their respective publications and are responsible for that content. These students should:

l. Determine the final content decisions of the student media;

2. Determine the final editorial decisions and content of each print issue, as well as online posts;

3. Strive to produce media based upon professional standards of accuracy, objectivity and fairness;

4. Review material to improve sentence structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation;

5. Check and verify all facts; 

6. Provide an opportunity for multiple points of view of a story to comment in an interview. This, in many cases, particularly news articles, includes the viewpoint of the administration, students and faculty.

7. In the case of editorials or letters to the editor concerning controversial issues, determine the need for rebuttal comments and opinions and provide space, if appropriate.

B. Unprotected Expression

The following types of student expression will not be protected:

1. Material that is “obscene as to minors.” “Obscene as to minors” is defined as material that meets both of the following requirements:

(a) the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the publication, taken as a whole, appeals to a minor’s prurient interest in sex; and

(b) the publication depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct such as ultimate sexual acts (normal or perverted), masturbation and lewd exhibition of the genitals; and;

2. Libelous material. Libelous statements are provably false and unprivileged statements of fact that demonstrate injury to an individual’s or business’ reputation in the community. If the allegedly libeled party is a “public figure” or “public official” as defined below, then school officials must show that the false statement was published “with actual malice,” i.e., that the student journalists knew that the statement was false or that they published it with reckless disregard for the truth without trying to verify the truthfulness of the statement.

(a) A public official is a person who holds an elected or appointed public office and exercises a significant amount of governmental authority.

(b) A public figure is a person who either has sought the public’s attention or is well known within the community because of personal achievements or actions.

(c) School employees, including CESJDS administrators, will be considered public officials or public figures in relationship to articles concerning their school-related activities.

(d) When an allegedly libelous statement concerns an individual who is not a public official or a public figure, school officials must show that the false statement was published willfully or negligently, i.e., the student journalist who wrote or published the statement had failed to exercise reasonably prudent care.

(e) Students are free to express opinions in articles under the “Opinion” or “Arts and Entertainment” sections of The Lion’s Tale in all mediums specified earlier in Section I of this document. Specifically, a student may criticize school policy.

3. Material that will cause “a material and substantial disruption of school activities.”

(a) Disruption is defined as student rioting, unlawful seizures of property, destruction of property, or substantial student participation in a school boycott, sit-in, walk-out or other related form of activity. Material that stimulates heated discussion or debate does not constitute the type of disruption prohibited.

(b) For student media to be considered disruptive, specific facts must exist upon which one could reasonably forecast that a likelihood of immediate, substantial material disruption to normal school activity would occur if the material were further distributed or has occurred as a result of the material’s distribution or dissemination. Mere undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to constitute disruption; school administrators must be able to affirmatively show substantial facts that reasonably support a forecast of likely disruption.

(c) The Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court ruling established that schools cannot restrict speech unless it “would materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.” In determining whether student media is disruptive, consideration must be given to the context of the distribution as well as the content of the material. In this regard, consideration should be given to past experience in the school with similar material, past experience in the school in dealing with and supervising the students in the school, current events influencing student attitudes and behavior and whether there have been any instances of actual or threatened disruption prior to or contemporaneously with the dissemination of the student publication in question.

(d) School officials must protect advocates of unpopular viewpoints. In addition, school officials cannot censor the views of advocates unless the material falls into another category of unprotected material in Section B of this document. 

(e) “School activity” means any activity sponsored by the school and includes, by way of example and not by way of limitation, classroom work, official assemblies and other similar gatherings, school athletic contests, school plays, parent programs, school field trips, Community Time and scheduled in-school lunch periods.

1. If, in the opinion of a student editor, student editorial staff or faculty adviser, material proposed for publication may be “obscene,” “libelous” or would cause an “immediate, material and substantial disruption of school activities,” the legal opinion of a practicing attorney for The Lion’s Tale should be sought. The students will consult with the Student Press Law Center for free legal services in any and all legal matters.

2. The final decision of whether such material is to be published will be left to the student editor or student editorial staff.

D. Protected Speech

1. School officials, including the administration, cannot:

a. Ban student expression solely because it is controversial, takes extreme, “fringe” or minority opinions or i, unpopular or unpleasant; 

b. Ban the publication or distribution of material relating to sexual issues including, but not limited to, virginity, birth control and sexually-transmitted diseases;

c. Prohibit criticism of the policies and practices of teachers, school officials, the school itself or of any public officials. Student editors must always give the aforementioned individuals the opportunity to comment on any article pertaining to their policies or practices prior to publication. If such an individual refuses to comment, publication of such article is permitted;

d. Cut off or reduce funds to official student media because of disagreement over its policies or published content, stories or articles;

e. Ban the publication or distribution by students of material written by non-students (outside guest writers);

E. Online Student Media and Use of Electronic Information Resources

1. Online/Digital Student Media

  1. Online/digital media may be used by students like any other communications media to reach both those within the school community and those beyond it. All official, school-sponsored online student publications are entitled to the same protections and are subject to no greater limitations than other student media, as described in this policy.

2. Electronic Information Resources

  1. Student journalists may use electronic information resources to gather news and information, to communicate with other students and individuals and to ask questions of and consult with sources. School officials will apply the same criteria used in determining the suitability of other educational and information resources to attempts to remove or restrict student media access to online and electronic material. Just as the purchase, availability and use of media materials in a classroom or anywhere on campus do not indicate endorsement of their contents by school officials, neither does making electronic information available to students imply endorsement of that content.

Faculty advisers to student media will help students develop the intellectual skills and tools needed to evaluate and appropriately use electronically available information to meet their newsgathering purposes; however, advisers are not responsible for approving the online resources used or created by their students.

III. Adviser Job Security

The student media adviser is not a censor. No person who advises a student publication will be fired, transferred or removed from the advisership by reason of his or her refusal to exercise editorial control over student media or to otherwise suppress the protected free expression of student journalists.

If and when the student media adviser does leave CESJDS for reasons unrelated to the issues above, the school will make every effort to hire a new adviser who is a Certified Journalism Educator through the Journalism Education Association, or one who has comparable training and experience.

IV. Prior Review/Restraint

No student media content (including, but not limited to articles, opinion pieces, and designs), shall require review by school administrators prior to its publication or distribution. The school assumes no liability for the content of any student publication and urges all student journalists to recognize that with editorial control comes responsibility, including the responsibility to follow professional journalism standards each school year. The Lion’s Tale takes such standards incredibly seriously and is committed to continually upholding journalistic values through its published content, stories, and articles.

V. Communication Guidelines Between Both Parties

To maintain effective communication and a strong relationship between the administration and the leadership of The Lion’s Tale, we welcome open communication between the two on any topics of concern, while still respecting the internal autonomy and decision-making processes of The Lion’s Tale staff. While the administration is explicitly prohibited from reviewing, restraining, and/or censoring the content of The Lion’s Tale’s online or print editions, The Lion’s Tale welcomes any insight the administration may wish to share regarding the sensitive nature or background of topics being covered by The Lion’s Tale. HOW WOULD ADMIN KNOW TO IINQUIRE IF NOT AWARE OF THE POTENTIAL CONTENT?

To facilitate this important communication, the administration is welcome to approach the staff and/or adviser of The Lion’s Tale with any questions or comments regarding an article prior to its publication. However, questions or concerns raised by the administration are non-binding and possess no substantive authority over The Lion’s Tale’s content decisions, as previously noted. Questions and concerns will be discussed by the editorial leadership of The Lion’s Tale and their staff adviser.

In a situation where the staff adviser and the editorial leadership of The Lion’s Tale cannot reach an agreement on publishing a particular article or whether such an article is suitable for the community to read, the Student Press Law Center will be consulted. If a decision still cannot be agreed upon, an outside professional journalist can be invited to mediate the situation at the request of either party. Even after careful deliberation and input by an outside professional journalist, the editorial leadership of The Lion’s Tale has the sole authority and discretion over content decisions.

VI. Protocol Continuity

To ensure the continuity and preservation of the aforementioned document, termination of this protocol can occur only if both parties (the administration and the Editors-in-Chief of The Lion’s Tale) agree to such a termination.

VII. Circulation

These guidelines will be included in the CESJDS student handbook through a link to this document and under the “Policy” section of lionstale.org.

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Turn that mic back on!

Posted by on Feb 13, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Turn that mic back on!

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by Candace Bowen, MJE

Having a principal censor a student media article is bad, but there’s something worse.

It may start with an administrator’s polite suggestions to reporters not to “make the school look bad.” It may involve only slightly veiled threats about not being about to write an editor’s college recommendation letters.

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The threat of self-censorship: Often intangible, but still important to address

Posted by on Feb 6, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on The threat of self-censorship: Often intangible, but still important to address

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by Diana Day, Academic Tech Coordinator, Portal Content Director, US Newspaper Adviser Moorestown Friends School

As scholastic journalism advisers, prevention of overt censorship from school administration is at the forefront of our fight for scholastic press rights  – and should be.  But in a scholastic setting, self-censorship is also a problem, arguably even more common than direct censorship. Whether caused by the chilling effects of previous censorship, by the pressure of prior review or by fear of judgment or reprisal from peers or teachers, self-censorship is an on-going threat to a free and open press and is worthy of discussion with your staff. 

Graphic by Diana Day; Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Self-censorship is not a new phenomenon and is included as one of seven categories used annually to measure press freedom in 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders. In “The Inevitable Problem of Self-Censorship,” John K. Wilson recently described self-censorship on campus as “a problem that’s almost impossible to survey, difficult to quantify and hard to prevent,” but went on to say we can still “try to create conditions that reduce the destructive kind of self-censorship and encourage free expression.”

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Get journalists engaged with their code of ethics

Posted by on Jan 30, 2022 in Blog | Comments Off on Get journalists engaged with their code of ethics

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by Lindsay Coppens

The Harbinger adviser

Algonquin Regional High School, Northborough, Mass.

Any time is a good time to visit, engage with and question a publication’s code of ethics. Whether near the start of an intro class or as a mid-year activity to re-center your staff, taking a close look at the paper’s code can foster excellent discussions and push ethical pondering to the forefront of scholastic journalists’ minds. 

Of course, the first step is to have a code of ethics. If your publication doesn’t have one, researching and discussing various codes are great places to start in adopting or forming your own. Much of The Harbinger’s code is based on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and the National Scholastic Press Association’ s Model Code of Ethics.

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