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Five steps for a great start to the school year

Posted by on Aug 1, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

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The typical to-do list of journalism teachers during the back to school season often includes setting up the newsroom, prepping lessons, attending professional development days and coordinating with editors and staffers. Whether that list lives in a mobile app, Google Doc or pretty new notebook, it’s usually a long one.

But adding these five things to the teacher to-do list will make for a great experience all year long. A little extra planning and outreach in August builds a foundation for students and colleagues that truly sets the tone for student press freedom, positive working relationships and increased awareness on campus.

Consider these for a great start:

  1. Get on the school calendar now for Constitution Day. Administrators often develop a list of upcoming events to distribute at staff in-service, for the school website, for parent communications and for posting on social media. Make sure Sept. 17 is listed, and begin the conversation with key partners on your campus about what activities you’ll plan and implement. Check out JEA’s set of Constitution Day lessons and activities here.

  2. Meet with any new teachers and staff members on your campus. Ideally, you can carve out a few minutes to introduce yourself and share about the student media program you advise. Who knows what journalism was like that their previous schools? Drop off copies of the students’ publication so your new colleagues can see what a great job students do. With just a brief conversation you can create the beginning of a positive relationship and help them understand that your students make the content decisions and take their roles as reporters seriously with a focus on truth, accuracy and integrity. If possible, invite them to stop by your room to see the media staff in full swing. 

    If possible, guide your editors as they prepare a brief introduction to new staff members, too. It’s great for new teachers to see students taking the lead, especially so they learn to contact students with story ideas or questions rather than coming to you.

  3. Incorporate the First Amendment in your welcome back activities. Make these part of any icebreakers, bootcamp sessions, editors’ planning meetings and other gatherings you have lined up for the next month. Incoming editors will follow your example; if you use law and ethics discussions as part of your first meet-up or work session together, they’ll do the same when training their new staff members.

    Even simple warm-ups like singing, rapping or reciting the First Amendment or using related T-shirts (like this one or this one) as special prizes will set the tone for a new school year. One simple activity in teams is to distribute envelopes containing the 45 words of the First Amendment on little slips of paper and having a race for each team to put the words in order correctly.
Quick warm-up activities like this one can help students learn the First Amendment while getting to know each other in small groups.

4. Add the First Amendment Press Freedom Award application to your editors’ to-do list. They’re probably in the process of determining the publication/distribution dates and deadline nights for the semester, so the timing is perfect for them to add the Dec. 15 application deadline. As we all know, what gets scheduled gets done. And having the award on their radar may lead to positive, necessary conversations from editors and staffers to educate their classmates, teachers and administrators throughout the fall.

5. Commit to teaching law and ethics. Plan lessons both for the start of the school year and to incorporate periodically all year long. Don’t rush into production with all attention on deadlines only to have students miss the significance of what they’re doing. Don’t apply a “one and done” unit in the first month and consider students’ learning complete. As you map out a scope and sequence, plan to revisit and layer important topics related to student press freedom and their rights and responsibilities.

The Law and Ethics module in the JEA Curriculum Initiative is a great place to start. You also can print the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for classroom use, or contact them to request a class set of bookmarks. The Student Press Law Center has great resources for educators, too. The key is to plan now and make it a recurring topic for discussion, reading, analysis, debate and/or practice in your journalism curriculum.

With a strong foundation and continuous practice, students make better, more informed decisions.

An adviser’s First Amendment passion is contagious, and the time invested now to accomplish these five tasks will pave the way for students and colleagues to follow your lead.

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We have the responsibility to ensure
administrators see journalism’s values

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Quick Tips, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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In the spirit of Constitution Day, help administrators. know what journalism means to the continuation of America’s democracy:

School administrators can feel tremendous pressure to protect their schools’ reputations, so it’s understandable that they may be wary of supporting a scholastic press where students have final say over all content.

Educating administrators about the value of journalism at the high school level is a crucial step towards empowering student journalists and building a future with more engaged democratic citizens.

If we, as educators and school leaders, want to teach our students the importance of citizenship, we must empower them to be citizens within the school walls. 

If we, as educators and school leaders, want to teach our students the importance of citizenship, we must empower them to be citizens within the school walls.

Administrators can do that by hiring a qualified journalism adviser to teach students the foundations of ethical, responsible journalism, and journalism advisers should encourage ongoing dialogue between student staffs and their school administrators.

Administrators can do that by hiring a qualified journalism adviser to teach students the foundations of ethical, responsible journalism, and journalism advisers should encourage ongoing dialogue between student staffs and their school administrators.

Providing school leaders with a copy of Quill & Scroll’s Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism is a good start, but busy administrators may not find the time to read it.

Journalism advisers and publications staffs should reach out to administrators to engage in face-to-face dialogue about their publication process so school leaders can see the logistics behind selecting, pitching, reporting, editing and publishing content, including how editors handle controversial stories. Students can explain how abstract common core goals come to life in their work as journalists and make a strong case for supporting their publications.

Scholastic journalism provides students with 21st century skills, curiosity about their world and a concrete experience of citizenship. Journalism classes encompass more 21st century skills set out in the Framework for 21st Century Learning than any other high school class, including global awareness, civic literacy, media literacy, collaboration, initiative and self direction, leadership and many more.

Scholastic journalism also connects to a vast number of Common Core goals. Research suggests that students in journalism classes also get better grades in high school, earn higher scores on the ACT and get better grades as college freshmen.

In addition to these positive academic outcomes, scholastic journalism programs led by qualified journalism educators foster responsible civic engagement, as students learn about their First Amendment Rights and become engaged with their school, local, national and global communities.

Student journalists with final say on their own content embrace their roles as democratic citizens who take ownership and are accountable for their decisions. Administrators who support scholastic journalism programs are supporting a future with more engaged democratic citizens 

 

Topic: Administration and scholastic journalism

Guideline:Publication staffs should reach out to school administrators to educate them about the benefits of scholastic journalism and to build trusting relationships. 

Social media post/question:Why should administrators support scholastic journalism?

Stance: Administrators should support scholastic journalism as a tool for building collaborative, creative and civically engaged citizens.

Administrators who understand the process of responsible journalism and the 21st century skills inherent in becoming a student journalist are more likely to support publication programs and student press freedoms.

Reasoning/suggestions: Scholastic journalism is a crucial part of school culture, as it provides students with 21st century skills, curiosity about their world and a concrete experience of citizenship.

Journalism classes encompass more 21st century skills set out in the Framework for 21st Century Learningthan any other high school class, including global awareness, civic literacy, media literacy, collaboration, initiative and self-direction, leadership and many more.

 

Scholastic journalism also fulfills to a vast number of Common Core goals. Additionally, researchsuggests students in journalism classes also get better grades in high school, earn higher scores on the ACT and get better grades as college freshmen.

 

In addition to these positive academic outcomes, scholastic journalism programs led by qualified journalism educators foster responsible civic engagement, as students learn about their First Amendment rights and journalistic responsibility, and become engaged with their school, local, national and global communities. Student journalists with final say on their own content embrace their roles as democratic citizens who take ownership and are accountable for their decisions.

 

Administrators who support scholastic journalism programs are supporting a future with more engaged democratic citizens.

 

Resources:

Introductionand Civic engagement and journalism, Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism

The 2017 State of the First Amendment, Newseum

High School Journalism Matters, American Press Institute

Framework for 21st Century Learning, Partnership for 21st Century Learning

Civic Implications of Secondary School Journalism, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

Principals, presidents and getting along, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

Teaching grit for citizenship — why we must empower, not shield students, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission

 

 

 

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Constitution Day is right time
to apply for FAPFA recognition

Posted by on Sep 17, 2018 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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by Lori Keekley, MJE
As advisers, we work to support student journalists on a daily basis.

Taking a moment today to apply for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award is a great way to symbolically show this support.

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Ways to celebrate Constitution Day 2018

Posted by on Aug 18, 2018 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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The Scholastic Press Rights Committee is again excited to provide lesson plans and activities to help you celebrate Constitution Day and the First Amendment. Constitution Day recognized Sept. 17 each year, and we have a trove of new and archived lessons and activities to help you raise awareness of the First Amendment’s rights and applications for students.

Take a look at the new lessons:

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When hatred speaks, we must speak back

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

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Exploring the First Amendment on Constitution Day

by Kristin Taylor

In 2004, Senator Robert Byrd attached an amendment to a federal spending bill to create a new national observance: Constitution Day. This amendment required public schools and government offices “to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.”

“I hope that kids understand that in this country, everything that we do in everyday life is touched upon by the Constitution of the United States,” he said in an interview. “It protects our liberties and it protects our freedom of speech. It protects our religion. It protects the freedom of speech so the newspapers can tell us the news every day.”

As a member of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee, it is especially important to me that students explore the First Amendment on Constitution Day, a critically important conversation to have in the face of today’s political climate and the rise of hate speech.

The 2017 Newseum’s State of the First Amendment survey showed an uptick in political speech this year — petition and assembly are two of the five freedoms, and almost half of those surveyed took advantage of them this year. It also showed overall agreement that a watchdog press is crucial, yet 22.5 percent of participants supported the claim that First Amendment freedom protection goes too far.

I suspect that number would be higher were the survey to happen today in the wake of Charlottesville and similar events.

Like many educators, I am troubled by the uptick in hate speech across the country and by white supremacists’ use of the term “free speech” to label rallies that are really about hatred. But as despicable as hate speech is, the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed, it is still protected by the First Amendment. It is not among the categories of unprotected speech defined by court cases over the years.

How can we face our students of color, our Jewish students or other students from marginalized groups and tell them that supporting the First Amendment means supporting the right of groups like the KKK or Nazis to spew this kind of hatred?

The American Bar Association has a good article to start the conversation. It outlines the difference between hateful speech and hateful acts using relevant court cases, and it defines libertarian and communitarian viewpoints on the issue. It also gives an example of how this played out on one college campus.

A more compelling question to ask our students is if they trust our government — and future governments — to decide what is offensive. Some European countries do, and this suggests that democratic societies can have reasonable, differing views on the matter. But others argue “the freer the speech, the stronger the democracy.”

But I think a more compelling question to ask our students is if they trust our government — and future governments — to decide what is offensive. Some European countries do, and this suggests that democratic societies can have reasonable, differing views on the matter. But others argue “the freer the speech, the stronger the democracy.”

In my experience, my more liberal students are quick to say the government should ban offensive speech, and my more conservative students believe everyone is afraid to speak because of “political correctness.”

To even begin a meaningful conversation, students first need the facts, and Constitution Day is a great time to provide them.

I recommend starting by clarifying that the First Amendment is about how the government doesn’t have a right to censor or punish speech; it has no bearing on how private citizens, companies or employers choose to react. White supremacists’ constitutional right to speak will not shield them from counter-protests, public humiliation via social media or personal consequences, such as being fired by a private employer. Similarly, social media platforms owned by private companies such as Facebook or Twitter are not public forums set up by the government, so they have the right to censor any content they deem offensive.

This leads into the second point: the danger in giving the government the power to censor is that there isn’t a common understanding of “offensive.”

In a blog post explaining why the ACLU filed a lawsuit defending provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech, James Esseks, Director of the LGBT & HIV Project, expressed the deep divide between Yiannopoulos’ hateful speech and the ACLU’s core values: “Here at the ACLU, we vehemently disagree with Mr. Yiannopoulos’ views. We work hard, every day, with the very communities he targets, to fight for equal rights and dignity for all. We recognize that his words cause grievous pain to many individuals, their families, and their loved ones.”

However, he goes on to write, “Without free speech protections, all civil rights advocacy could be shut down by the people in power, precisely because government doesn’t agree with the ideas activists advance. That was true of the civil rights fights of the past, it’s true of the movements facing pitched battles today, and it will be true of the movements of the future that are still striving to be heard.”

Many people believe speech about such issues as abortion, gender identity or sexuality are offensive, Esseks argues, and “if First Amendment protections are eroded at any level, it’s not hard to imagine the government successfully pushing one or more of those arguments in court.”

This is the heart of the First Amendment — the question of whether we trust the government to regulate our speech and define what is offensive and what is not, or if we want to retain that freedom ourselves.

This is the heart of the First Amendment — the question of whether we trust the government to regulate our speech and define what is offensive and what is not, or if we want to retain that freedom ourselves.

That said, student editorial boards are not “the government.” They can and should make ethical decisions about what to publish, and they have a right to refuse to publish hateful speech, though I would caution them to differentiate between “hate speech” and student opinions they dislike. They also have the right and the responsibility to act as ethical leaders who take informed positions in unsigned editorials.

The editorial board of the nationally award-winning Harbinger Online provides a great example of ethical leadership in response to hateful speech in their most recent editorial, “Burn the Eastonian.” The Eastonian is an underground student newspaper known for its “diabolical” and “abusive” attacks on and lies about students, teachers and administrators, and this editorial makes a compelling case to convince students to end this “most shameful tradition.”

This editorial demonstrates how punishment and censorship are seldom as powerful as more speech can be. According to the piece, this tradition has been going on for decades, despite threats of suspension, being banned from school activities or legal consequences (I assume for the libel, which is a form of unprotected speech).

These deterrents didn’t end the Eastonian last year, but the Harbinger’s passionate editorial might. By naming the problem, humanizing the victims, explaining the consequences — not just to the perpetrators if they get caught, but also to those defamed and to the reputation of the school — and providing examples of prominent students in the community who have pledged to take no part in the Eastonian, the Harbinger editorial board has shown the power of more speech in the face of hate.

Schools across the nation will celebrate Constitution Day on Monday, Sept. 18, this year.  I urge you to use this opportunity to bring to the surface difficult conversations about hate speech and the First Amendment.

In addition to the resources I’ve linked to in this blog, you should also check out the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee’s 2017 Constitution Day lessons.

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