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Protecting student voices trivia

Posted by on Aug 19, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Return to Front cover Constitution Day 2020

Description

Regardless of how much you have touched on student First Amendment rights in class, get your students competing to test their knowledge of specific laws, court cases that shape their speech and publication rights at school and the resources available to them. Additional suggestions are provided for discussion and applying the concepts to your specific school.

  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of the First Amendment rights available to them at school.
  • Students will assess their knowledge of the history of student press rights and its application
  • Students will apply knowledge of relevant laws and history to their own publication policy.
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Expanding the First Amendment: State Laws and Student Voice

Posted by on Aug 19, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Return to Front cover Constitution Day 2020

Description: This lesson is intended to help students gain a better understanding of how state laws may expand student press rights beyond the First Amendment, as limited by Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier. Students will use SPLC.org to research their state’s status to see if it already has a New Voices law or an active New Voices campaign.  All students will explore SPLC’s New Voices FAQ to learn more about New Voices and evaluate how press freedom might change or impact their educational experiences. If they live in a state with a New Voices law, they will read it and evaluate the extent to which their experience of press freedom aligns with that law. If they do not live in a state with a New Voices law, they will pick a NV law to explore. All students will reflect on what they have learned from this process by evaluating the legality of their current press freedom and discussing next steps for personal action.

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Riding out the storm:

Posted by on Aug 15, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

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Find your way past roadblocks to save stories only YOU can do best

by Candace Bowen, MJE

Unfortunately, the pandemic is the perfect storm for high school media. Students have important stories only they can tell, but administrators really don’t want all these stories out there. On top of that, some admins are already finding ways to hamper reporting – or stop it altogether.

Being aware of these tactics and knowing how to combat them is vital as student journalists and their advisers start back to school this fall. Whether remote, face-to-face or some hybrid, the basic plan is to be sure student media coverage is thorough and professional, able to stand the scrutiny it might have to face.

So far, we’ve seen the usual – students threatened with suspension and punishment, even in states with New Voices legislation. But we’ve also seen more than usual budget-cutting and financial excuses for eliminating student publications. Then, too, FERPA – NOT an act that applies to student media – may again be an excuse to try to limit coverage, and HIPAA, also not applied properly, may become another excuse. 

Read on to see how to react and what you may be able to do to stay safe and counter some of these strategies.

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Gagging students but not requiring masks

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

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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

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Working to develop ethical fitness

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

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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.

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