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2015 Constitution Day lessons

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



In preparation for Constitution Day 2015, several members of the Scholastic Press Rights Committee (SPRC), a committee of the Journalism Education Association, created lesson plans specific for the event. We suggest celebrating the day Sept. 17.
We created these lessons to help celebrate the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as mandated by Congress. Legislation requires schools to offer lessons on the Constitution and how it affects all Americans. Our lesson plans emphasize the First Amendment and particularly the freedoms of speech and the press.

Please contact me  if you have any questions or feedback about the lessons or how to implement them. For a video about the lessons, go to

The SPRC works to provide information and resources on legal and ethical issues to journalism students, teachers and administrators. SPRC members also work to promote the First Amendment rights of students across the nation.

The lessons
Celebrating Constitution Dayby Lori Keekley.This activity encourages the English, social studies and journalism teachers to engage students in exploring the Constitution’s relevance to their daily lives, facts about the Constitution and understanding the amendments to the Constitution
Crossword Puzzle, by Lori Keekley. For fun activities to celebrate Constitution Day in a number of curricular areas.
• Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint, by Jeff Kocur. Click here for the activity. For additional resources and model ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures for this, go here and here.
Listening with a skeptical ear: checking source accuracy and credibility by John Bowen. 
With candidates jostling for positions in the 2016 presidential election and numerous state, local races taking shape and issues developing readers and viewers face an onslaught of information not limited to politics. Student journalists must able to separate valid from questionable information and know how to determine if sources and their messages are credible.
Where should journalists draw the line? by John Bowen. By examining The Huffington Post’s announcement it would only report Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination for president on the entertainment pages, students can further explore ethical issues pertaining to the decision while again examining the role of media.
Should there be limits to taking a stance in front page design? by John Bowen. This lesson examines the ethical and philosophical issues as to whether it is OK for a student newspaper to Rainbow Filter its Twitter profile picture or show any unlabeled viewpoint.
• Censorship and broadcast video by Chris Waugaman. This lesson would be intended to be a lesson used with producers in a broadcasting class or even anonline editors who often use video and stream events. Students will learn terms that familiarize them with censorship in video and radio. Students will also learn how to make critical decisions regarding their press rights by applying the case outcomes they learn in this lesson.

To see past years’ lessons, go here.

Please send any feedback to I’d love to hear from you!

Lori Keekley
For JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee and the Constitution Day Committee

Constitution Day Committee
John Bowen, MJE, Kent State University (OH)
Lori Keekley, MJE, St. Louis Park High School (MN)
Jeff Kocur, CJE, Hopkins High School (MN)

Chris Waugaman, Prince George High School (VA)

Content list


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Understanding the perils of
prior review and restraint

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

This lesson asks the viewers to participate by providing the answers to several questions concerning prior review and restraint. Following each slide, the correct answer is provided as well as a description of the reasoning for the answer.

• Students will learn the difference between prior review and restraint.
• Students will understand why prior review and restraint are not beneficial to any involved including students, teachers and administrators.
• Students will have understand the benefits of not having prior review.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.8 Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

40 minutes

Materials / resources
CD2015 Prior Review pdf

Lesson step-by-step
Step 1: partner work — 2-5 minutes

Students should work in pairs to define the terms prior review and prior restraint. Teacher should ask several pairs to report their definitions.

Step 2: slideshow — 25 minutes
Teacher and students should work through the slideshow.

Step 3: debrief — 10-13 minutes
Students should review why prior review and restraint can negatively affect student media.

Teacher could ask students to research how an administrator reviewing content is not like the publisher or editor of media. Students could access resources and report back to the group.

Additional Resources
Prior review button on menu bar, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
JEA Board Statement on Prior Review, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Building a Climate of Trust Can Ease Prior Review, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Seeking a Cure for the Hazelwood Blues: A call to Action, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee
Audio: Panic Button, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute
Audio: Eliminating Prior Review, JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee, Press Rights Minute


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Should news media neglect events or people?

Posted by on Aug 31, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Should media ever not report events or personalities? What ethical issues are involved?

The Huffington Post recently announced it would only report Donald Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination for president on the entertainment pages.

Historically, many would argue this decision runs counter to the journalistic concept of objectivity. Others argue journalism’s changing roles and thinking of what is news preclude “events” simply designed for attention, without substance.

Working on this question can lead to clarification of student media roles and concept of what is news and help students  begin to develop ethical guidelines for news coverage

• Students will be able to define possible roles for their student media
Students will be able to define and practice definitions of news
Students will apply concepts and decision making  from the exercise and create ethical guidelines and procedures for skeptical knowing.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3 Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text.

150 minutes

Materials / resources

2 days

Lesson step-by-step

Day 1

Introduce students to the article (A Note About Our Coverage) from the Huffington Post on not reporting Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination as political news.

Discuss the issues: objectivity, partisanship, bias, trust, public’s right to know. How do the students react to the Note About Our Coverage and to the idea of not reporting a person or event, and why.

Then share the other readings (That’s a bad idea, Confusion and Donald fires back) with the students and go through similar questions or issues.

To add another view, have students read and discuss link about “clerkism.”  Discuss the question whether refusing to report everything someone says is a logical part of journalistic responsibility – or simply showing bias.

Students could do the readings outside class and spend Day 1 discussing the implications and ethics of the questions about “refusing to cover” and “clerkism.”

Day 2

Students will review the previous discussions and prepare to design ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures for their student media about reporting or not reporting events and people.

Access instructions and how to use the ethical guidelines-staff manual approaches and a model of what the concept would look like.

Students will finalize their thinking and share with others on student medial

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Join us Aug. 31 to learn more about Constitution Day

Posted by on Aug 29, 2015 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoNeed Constitution Day celebration ideas? Join us Aug. 31 at 7 CDT as we highlight several ways to celebrate.

Here’s where it will take place:

Members of JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee will lead the session.  So far, we have Lori Keekley, Jeff Kocur, Chris Waugaman and John Bowen.

That’s 7 p.m. CDT, Aug. 31, at

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It’s ironic

Posted by on Sep 17, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments



by John Bowen
It’s ironic that Sept. 17, a day mandated to honor the Constitution of the United States, also this year marks the 2-day suspension of Neshaminy adviser Tara Huber for what the board of education calls insubordination.

The board suspended her without pay for failing to stop students from defying its directive. Her crime: She did not censor her students’ actions, actions she had no part in and did not even know about.

Additionally, the board of education stripped the students’ fundraising account of $1,200 to reimburse printing costs when students failed to print a letter in that issue using a term they deemed offensive.

In our minds, Huber and her students, through their actions of following their beliefs and Constitutional protections, represent the true spirit of the Constitution.



Every day.

Background materials:

• Constitution Day lessons
• SPLC search for Neshaminy
• Neshaminy HS adviser suspended over newspaper’s ban
• Neshaminy suspends newspaper adviser for two days without pay
 Editor, faculty advisor suspended for refusing to print ‘redskin’ in school paper 

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