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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


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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JEA statement on student free expression
in a vibrant and flourishing democracy

Posted by on Apr 9, 2017 in Blog, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


The Journalism Education Association, at its board meeting in Seattle Washington April 6, unanimously passed the following statement:

To address current negativity toward news media in general and misunderstanding of its roles in a democracy, the Journalism Education Association reiterates its principles and practices that nourish a lifelong commitment for a vibrant and flourishing democracy.

We strongly believe free student expression as taught and practiced in journalism classes anchors successful scholastic media. So empowered, our programs showcase the importance of news and media literacy, civic engagement, critical thinking and decision-making as the core of lifelong involvement in a democracy.

To protect our democracy and its principles:

  • JEA reaffirms its position that the practice of journalism is an important form of public service to prepare students as engaged, civic-minded citizens who are also discerning information creators and users.
  • JEA will recognize, promote and support strong editorial policies with each media outlet as a designated public forum for student expression where students make all final content decisions without prior review or restraint.
  • JEA will encourage all journalism teachers and advisers to strongly encourage diversity, accuracy and thoroughness in content so student media reflect and make sense to communities they serve.
  • JEA will produce sample editorial policies and accompany them with model ethical guidelines and staff manual procedures that enhance and implement journalistically responsible decisions across media platforms.
  • JEA will encourage journalism teachers and media advisers, even if they must teach and advise under prior review or restraint, to recognize how educationally unsound and democratically unstable these policies and rules are.
  • JEA will insist student free expression not be limited by claims related to program funding or equipment use. Instead, journalism programs should showcase student civic engagement and practice democratic principles no matter what media platform is used.
  • JEA will demonstrate, to communities in and out of school, through its actions, policies, programs and budgeting, its commitment to an informed, vibrant nation where free expression is expected and practiced as part of our diverse American heritage.

Additionally, we believe groups we partner with and endorse should faithfully support principles of free student expression for student media.

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JEA endorses legislation
for New Voices in 8 states

Posted by on Apr 19, 2016 in Blog, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


The Journalism Education Association, at its spring convention in Los Angeles, endorsed eight states’ efforts to pass legislation ensuring protection for student expression.

The states are:

“JEA is spot-on to endorse these states’ efforts to pass New Voices legislation,” JEA president Mark Newton said. “Student voice is absolutely essential in all aspects of education. And, it is absolutely essential to participating in a democracy. It is a civic duty to empower — and defend — each freedom in the First Amendment. I am glad to see so many states see the plethora of values of responsible student freedom of expression.”

The eight are part of the New Voices movement, a project of the Student Press Law Center.

According to its website, New Voices hopes such legislation “will restore the Tinker standard of student expression in America’s high schools. That standard protects student speech unless it is libelous, an invasion of privacy or creates a ‘clear and present danger’ of a ‘material and substantial disruption’ of the school.”

[pullquote]When we teach responsible expression to students, and empower them to use it without fear of review or restraint, we will see positive benefits for decades and decades. It’s not only an educational sound best practice, but a civic one as well. – JEA President Mark Newton[/pullquote]

States already having state protection for student expression are:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Colorado
  • Arkansas
  • Kansas
  • North Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania Code
  • Washington Code

“When we teach responsible expression to students, and empower them to use it without fear of review or restraint,” Newton said,  “we will see positive benefits for decades and decades. It’s not only an educational sound best practice, but a civic one as well.”

JEA is the largest scholastic journalism organization for teachers and advisers, educating teachers how to educate students. Among its programs and outreach, JEA provides training around the country at national conventions and institutes, offers national certification for teaching high school journalism and monitor and actively defend First Amendment and scholastic press rights issues across the country.

New Voices USA is a student-powered grassroots movement to give young people the legally protected right to gather information and share ideas about issues of public concern. New Voices works with advocates in law, education, journalism and civics to make schools and colleges more welcoming places for student voices.

JEA and the SPLC encourage other states to press for similar legislation, and would also endorse legislation that would do so.

Students and advisers interested for more information can contact the SPLC  at 202-785-5450 or JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee.

For more information about starting state legislation, check this SPLC resource, this resource and this JEA resource.

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A class activity to learn
both law AND ethics

Posted by on Nov 2, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


sprclogoby Candace Bowen
“The first lesson she asked me to teach is lawnethics,” the excited student teacher said, adding more slowly, “But now I’m not exactly sure what that is….”

Sadly, she wasn’t alone in a class of education majors who would soon be licensed to teach journalism in a large Midwestern state. In fact, ask some teachers already in the classroom, ask their principals, and, while they would know it’s not all one word, they might be hard pressed to explain the difference between LAW and ETHICS.

But not knowing the difference makes it difficult to teach these two concepts effectively. They are separate fields, though they do overlap in theory and practice, and plenty of journalistic situations require us to assess both legal and ethical components.

So let’s look at them carefully. The simplistic definition says, “Law tells us what we COULD do, and ethics helps us decide what we SHOULD do.” Other definitions point out laws are passed by governing bodies of a town, state or country and breaking a law has specified consequences. In other words, you can be punished for not following the rules.

Ethics, on the other hand, is more about an individual or team process to arrive at the best way to act for the situation. According to the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin, “Ethical questions arise most typically in cases where there is genuine puzzlement about what should be done in various types of situations. There is usually some practical importance or urgency to such questions. Is it ethical for journalists to reveal their sources to the courts, despite their promises of confidentiality? Is it ethical of journalists to invade the privacy of politicians to investigate allegations of unethical conduct?”

It’s impossible to spell out all the ethical options because situations constantly change, and what works in one situation may be wrong in another that’s somewhat similar. Journalists need guidelines to help them make ethical decisions, but hard and fast rules won’t always work.

That’s why so many organizations have ethical guidelines that are flexible. Read the SPJ Code of Ethics: Seek Truth and Report It, Minimize Harm, Act Independently and Be Accountable and Transparent. It says nothing about firing a journalist for using an unnamed source or setting up an undercover sting, but the bullet points under each of these main tenets give the media some guidelines.

The Principals Guide to Scholastic Journalism also helps explain the difference between law and ethics and includes an extensive list of links to valuable resources.

Experienced journalism educators usually find it more effective to teach legal issues first, then ethical, because that’s the approach journalists take in the real world. What COULD we do? Would we be libeling someone if we printed that? If it’s illegal, go no further. But legal situations may have ethical implications. SHOULD we use the victim’s name? What about the accused? Both names? Neither name?

JEA’s law and ethics curriculum follows that same organization (for JEA members only). Even the three-week module handles the First Amendment, court cases, unprotected speech (libel, copyright, invasion of privacy), reporter’s privilege, FERPA, FOIA, before “Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should” and additional ethics approaches.


Copy shot provided by the artist

Hypotheticals are a one good way to get students to look at a situation’s legal and ethical issues, like this one about a piece of art and how the student newspaper could and should report it:

As an art class project, the teacher told her students to create a scratchboard drawing, either from imagination or using a photo as its basis. Tammy used a picture in a school board-approved book, The Family of Man, that depicted a woman balancing a basket on her head. The art teacher thought her finished product was wonderful and wanted to put it in a display case at the end of the art hallway, but she wasn’t sure she could — the woman was nude from the waist up. When the teacher asked the principal’s opinion, he said, no, don’t hang it in the hall. Tammy was furious and so were some of the newspaper staff when they heard the story. Would you cover this incident? How? As an editorial? A news story? Whom would you interview? Would you consider running a copy shot of the photo? What would the principal likely say? First, think about the legal issues — is it obscene? Is it a copyright violation? Any other possible laws you might break? If nothing is legally wrong, what about the ethics? What is your reason for running it? (Download the picture here)





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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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