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Prior review imposes ineffective educational limits on learning, citizenship

Posted by on May 3, 2019 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Words and ideas often become scrambled with prior review

by John Bowen, MJE
Unbelievably, prior review seems to be spreading.

It occurred recently in Illinois, California, Ohio, Texas and numerous additional states. It shows no signs of slowing, despite efforts to pass state legislation to protect student expression.

To read about California review and restraint demands, go here. To read the articles in question go here.

Every scholastic journalism organization has opposed prior review and, hopefully, will continue to do so.

Legally, though, prior review is not unconstitutional although prior restraint – censorship – is in some states, Thus, the best way to fight it is with educational principles and the need for stronger civic engagement.

Arguable points against prior review include:

• It limits student intellectual and societal growth

• It delays or even extinguishes the development of journalistic responsibility

• It shackles critical thinking

• It leads historically to prior restraint which leads to mis- and disinformation

• It has no educational value

Yet, it still continues and spreads.

As journalism teachers we know our students learn more when they make content choices. 

Prior review and restraint do not teach students to produce higher quality journalism or to become more journalistically responsible.

As journalism teachers we know the only way to teach students to take responsibility for their decisions is to train them for that responsibility.

As journalism teachers we know democracy depends on students who understand all voices have a right to be heard and have a voice in their school and community.

It is our responsibility to find and publicize ways to convince those who support prior review why the practice has no place in scholastic journalism.

For our democracy, our educational system and our individual abilities to separate credible information untruths.

To gain traction against prior review, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee will focus its efforts to provide educational and civic support for advisers, students, parents and administrators so they can best educate their communities.

The resources below represent our initial steps to extend the discussion about the dangers of a practice that historically only led to censorship.


Prior review
What to tell your principal about prior review?

Why avoiding prior review is educationally sound

Dealing with unwanted, forced prior review?

JEA Adviser Code of Ethics

Definitions of prior review, prior restraint

Prior review vs prior restraint

Questions advisers should ask those who want to implement prior review
Why we keep harping about prior review

Understanding the perils of prior review and restraint

Talking points blog and talking points to counter prior review

And much, much more at Scholastic Press Rights Committee

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New Year brings hope for New Voices

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Blog, New Voices, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments

by Jackie Mink, JEA Emeritus Member
This past January, I saw television reports about  members of the UnitedStates Congress being sworn in for this new year. I also saw this happening with the Missouri legislature, which is the state where I live.

New sessions makes me think of the New Voices of Missouri legislation, a movement to guarantee student journalists in the state freedom to report without fear of consequence. 

Right now, there is no added protection against administrative censorship for high school or college journalists and their advisers, leaving them vulnerable to censorship for simply reporting the truth. 
According to the New Voices web site and Facebook:
• For three years in a row, the Missouri Senate failed to call New Voices reform legislation for a final floor vote despite nearly unopposed approval in the House and in the Senate Education Committee. 
• Rep. Kevin Corlew introduced a new version of the Cronkite New Voices Act, HB 441, Jan. 5, 2017. The 2017 version addressed concerns raised during 2016, including clarifying that schools and colleges are immune from legal liability for the speech of their students in journalistic publications.
• The bill in 2018 would have guaranteed freedom of the press in school-sponsored media for both public high schools and public colleges. Not all speech is protected under the bill. Exemptions include: speech that is libelous,  incites violence, contains a threat, engages in illegal activity, violates the rights of others, advertises an illegal product, encourages breaking school policies. 
• This was the third straight year the bill  (which would establish the Walter Cronkite New Voices Act) had passed the House with heavy support and passed a Senate committee, but it has never been brought before the full Senate.
   • Before the bill was brought up for the committee vote, there were concerns that groups representing school boards planned to propose “killer amendments” that would severely weaken the bill. 

The New Voices of Missouri Facebook page urged supporters to contact committee members and ask them to reject these changes.
     The Missouri Education Association, the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri College Media Association all support the  2019 legislation.

Dr. Robert Bergland, a professor of journalism and digital media at Missouri Western University emailed me and said, “ In addition to individuals calling/writing, is teachers encouraging their students to write/call.  If media advisers set aside 10 minutes to have their students write a quick 
e-mail or letter/postcard to their Senator (if they wish), that would be great for the bill and a good lesson in participatory democracy. We might want to do the same for the Governor if/when the bill passes the Senate, to have students and teachers and allies encouraging the governor to sign it. Also, encourage people to like/follow the Facebook page.”

 I emailed and called the office of  Missouri State Senator Gina Walsh.  She is my state senator, the minority floor leader, and her district encompasses Hazelwood East High School where the Hazelwood vs. Kuhlmeier case began over 30 years ago.  I requested information about whether she supported this bill or not.  I have not heard back as of April 12.  The legislative session ends May 17.

I hope the  Show Me State, which is the state of the famous journalist Walter Cronkite, the renowned  University of Missouri Journalism school,  active and involved student journalists, also the location where the Hazelwood case took place, will be able to pass the New Voices bill this year.

Check out the New Voices Missouri Facebook page to keep up on what happens in Missouri and other states where there is an effort to pass bills.  
 New Voices legislation has passed in 14 states, with Washington passing a version of the bill in 2018.

Student Press Law Center reporter Cory Dawson wrote Feb. 28, 2019, “Fourteen states already have New Voices laws on their books. So far in 2019, bills have been introduced in 11 states, although two have already failed to pass out of the committee stages. Arkansas (HB1231), Missouri (HB743), Nebraska (LB206), New York (A03079), Texas (SB514), Indiana (HB1213) and New Jersey (A238) already have bills moving through the legislature, whereas bills in Minnesota and Pennsylvania will be introduced in the coming days and weeks. Virginia and Hawaii’s bills have already been killed.”










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Arkansas student journalists lose publishing rights, regain them, support from other journalists

Posted by on Dec 9, 2018 in Blog, Legal issues | 0 comments


by Jackie Mink, JEA Emeritus member
A recent challenge in Arkansas left a high school’s newspaper censored and prior review started. With support from other scholastic and professional journalism organizations, the school newspaper has now been allowed to publish.

I thought of a line in my favorite book “To Kill a Mockingbird”recently. It was in the courtroom scene when Atticus Finch says to a witness,“You ran to the house, you ran to the window, you ran inside, you ran to Mayella, you ran for Mr. Tate. Did you in all this running, run for a doctor?” As well as wondering why there was no medical attention, Atticus was probably wondering if the real truth may have been discovered if the doctor had been called.

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Working together more than just a phrase

Posted by on Oct 15, 2018 in Blog, Law and Ethics, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Stan Zoller, MJE
More than a few years ago, I produced a corporate television show designed to inform the United States sales force of a major corporation about new sales, existing customer successes and general corporate information.

It was also quasi motivational and one of the anchors’ walk-off lines was  “Working together, we make the difference.” Remember, I produced the show, I didn’t write the copy.

However, as trite as the walk-off for the show was, there is more than a fleeting truth about working together. Especially when it comes to scholastic press rights.

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Check out the new SPRC podcast

Posted by on Sep 30, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments


Looking to learn more about New Voices and the First Amendment? Check out SPRC’s first in a series of podcasts that will highlight issues of importance to empower student voices.

The first installment of “Conversations at the Schoolhouse Gate” features Neha Madhira from Prosper High School (Texas) and discusses her staff’s fight through prior review and censorship.

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