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Prior review and prior 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.


  • Students will demonstrate understanding of prior review and restraint.
  • Students will compare and contrast prior review and restraint with journalism principles, ethics and decision-making.
  • Students will develop arguments to defend or oppose the use of prior review and restraint

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.)


Based on individual needs

Materials / resources

Prior review v. prior restraint  

Resources for teacher background

Model guidelines for policy choices

Easy access to policy models

What should go into an editorial policy? What should not?
Student media policy may be the most important decision you make

Suggestions for student media mission, legal, ethical and procedural language

Introducing a staff manual package to build a foundation for journalistic responsibility

Edit policy sets forum status

Ethics codes are invaluable in student journalism, but not as guide for punishment

How to use this guide for ethical use of staff manuals

Model for ethical guidelines

Takedown demands

Muzzle Hazelwood with strong journalism status as an open public forum

Talking points on prior review and restraint

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

Prior review v. prior restraint

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Guidelines, recommendations for advisers facing prior review

JEA defines prior review

Lesson step-by-step

Presentation – Day 1

The teacher will set up a discussion question for students about prior review and prior restraint. 

The prompt follows:

Read these definitions:

  • Prior review occurs when anyone not on the publication/media staff requires that he or she be allowed to read, view or approve student material before distribution, airing or publication.
  • Prior restraint occurs when someone not on the publication/media staff requires pre-distribution changes to or removal of student media content

Once students ponder the definitions, they should read Prior review v. prior restraint.

The teacher should post the following:

• Create two lists, one supporting prior review and the other opposed to it. Based on readings, previous class work and the definitions, list up to 10 reasons each to oppose or support prior review 

When they are satisfied, students would submit their lists to a third, blank, discussion board for use when they work to draft a prior review statement.

Presentation – Day 2 (Could be later or when working on staff manual)

Students will review their pro-con prior review statements and browse through Talking points on prior review and restraint

Using their review choices and other articles, students should each draft a prior review statement to be used with other manual statements on policy, ethics and procedure.


Students should craft it as the focus for a short position paper:

            • In no more than 150 words, craft a position statement on how to talk with administrators about prior review..

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