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Tweet6: Blueprint provides outline for passing free-expression laws

Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


hazelwoodcolorEight states have passed laws to provide Hazelwood immunity. Could you protect yourselves?   #25HZLWD

It’s obvious, by the frequent reports of administrative prior review and restraint across the country, that there is a lack of clarity about the law and the First Amendment rights of students.

The waters, muddied by the 1988 Hazelwood Supreme Court decision, are much more clear now in eight states where anti-Hazelwood legislation has passed: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Oregon and North Dakota.

For the student press in all other states, there is a constant tug of war between student journalists and their administrators over what is allowed: Under what circumstances is administrative control over content justified? What recourse do students have when their rights have been infringed upon? What is the role of the adviser? Who is liable when unprotected speech slips through and is published?

It has become clear that, in the states where legislation has passed, these questions now have answers; in the states where there is no clarifying law, the answers to these questions are ill defined. There are no winners in the resulting tug-of-war between school administrators, their districts, and the student press.

in March 2012, a team of SPRC Commission members poured over archives documenting successes and failures in passing legislation, and created a downloadable “Promoting Scholastic Press Rights Legislation: A Blueprint for Success.” This document was updated in February 2016.

This guide is not a guarantee of success, but the SPRC hopes that it will offer insights into the challenges, and will be a practical reference for those who choose to navigate the unpredictable waters of the legislative process. The information will also be available on our homepage, in the menu section, on the right.

To help provide background information about the Hazelwood decision, download this legal research by the First Amendment Center:

Additional resources:

  • Information about states that have passed state legislation OK

  • Model Policies, Legislation and Regulation

  • California Leonard Law

  • Press freedom at a public junior and senior high school

  • About our legal system

  • Cure Hazelwood


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Professional allies against censorship

Posted by on Mar 30, 2011 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Those looking for allies in their fight against censorship should consider professional organizations.

Check out support the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists gave students of the Overland Scout today.

The Board of Directors of the Colorado Pro Chapter of SPJ wrote in their letter to the Cherry Creek District Superintendent and Board, “Specific provisions exist that allow for prior restraint by school administrators, including if a story is obscene, false or libelous. None of these conditions appear to be involved in the Scout case.” Read the entire letter here and here.

Scout student journalists have argued the school prevented publication of an article that could have been published under Colorado law, stopped further publication of the newspaper and removed their adviser. The school has responded with shifting positions but now says the paper will continue to publish.

Even as we continue to support these students and their adviser, we, as advisers, need to be conduits for the importance of student free and journalistically responsible expression. We must model it, teach it and lobby for it whether we face review and restraint ourselves or are pinnacles of freedom.

Start with administrators; start with the community. But no matter where we start, we must illuminate the fact that the basis of a continuing, intelligent democracy lives and grows with a strong and viable journalism program. It starts where students are challenged to think, to make decisions and to be responsible as they apply what they learn without prior review or restraint.

Anything less – anything – undermines the core of freedoms we say we cherish and those in other lands fight to attain.

Follow the Colorado situation by checking these links.


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