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Getting everyone on the side of quality journalism

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 1 comment


by Matt Smith,  Adviser, Cardinal Columns
Fond du Lac High School

sprclogoOn August 25, the Fond du Lac Board of Education gave the official go-ahead for student publications at Fond du Lac High School to begin the new school year operating under new publication guidelines that scrap last year’s policy of administrative prior review.

The new guidelines are not the end of the journey (the language could be more consistent in designating the paper as a public forum for student expression and would be more protective if it was incorporated more directly into actual school board policy), but they are a huge step forward.

Students will no longer submit their work to the principal for approval prior to publication. They will also have the benefit of the more powerful learning and critical thinking development that comes with taking more responsibility for the quality journalism that they produce. The biggest benefit of all, however, may have come from the mere act of finally getting together all the stakeholders involved to craft the new guidelines.

The fact we got students and teachers and administrators and district staff (and eventually the superintendent and board of education and other community members) talking constructively about the importance and practice of journalism in our school was truly powerful.

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Censorship lesson and case study: Fond du Lac

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


Censorship Case Study
by Jeff Kocur

A case study on the Fond du Lac High School Cardinal Column’s censorship by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. The study involves censorship of Fond du Lac High School’s by administration after the publishing of an article on a rape culture at the school. Students examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students and evaluate and hypothesize what they might do if faced with a similar situation.

• Students will examine the application of the First Amendment to high school students
• Students will discuss the censorship of a high school publication.
• Students will evaluate and hypothesize what they would do if they were in a similar situation.

Common Core State Standards
Informational text; Integration of knowledge and ideas
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem.
• Informational text; Integration of knowledge and ideas
Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principlesand use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

100 minutes (Two 50-minute classes)

Materials / resources
Handout 1

Handout 2
Rape Culture Coverage
For more information about the situation:
• Article on the issue
• Student Press Law Center with links to story
• Article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lesson step-by-step
Day One:

1. Background — 3 minutes
Teacher should either talk through or project the following:
Summation of issue:
Students at the Cardinal Columns, the student run newspaper at Fond Du Lac High School in Fond Du Lac, Wisc., were compelled to write a piece in the February issue about a rape culture at their school. The Editor-in-Chief, Tanvi Kumar told the Student Press Law Center the following.

“We are so saturated in a society that tolerates and even condones objectification of women and sexualizes them to be less than human beings,” Kumar said. “I think a lot of that … contributes to rape jokes and rape culture, and it’s not something that I could see going under the radar anymore.”

After the article was published, the principal, Jon Wiltzius, enacted a school board policy on the books, but not in practice, that would require the students to submit their paper to him prior to publication. He censored a photo on the cover of the next issue that was critical of the new policy.

2. Opening question — 2 minutes
Ask the students “What if this happened at your school?”
Teacher note: A healthy, mutual understanding of the First Amendment between your staff and your administrator would likely make this a non-issue, but not all schools are that lucky. You may want to share the First Amendment with the students as well.

3. Reading the article — 25 minutes
Teacher should pass out the article. Students should read the coverage in its entirety.

4. Pair work — 15 minutes
Teacher should pass out “Handout 1.” Students could work on the sheet in pairs.

5. Homework
If students have not finished the handout, ask them to do it for homework.

Day 2

1. Recap — 5 minutes
Ask students to “remind you” of what they read about the day before.

2. Large group discussion — 15 minutes
Teacher should ask each group to report their answers. Teacher should facilitate the discussion.

3. Small group work — 15 minutes
Ask each pair to partner with another pair. Pass out “Handout 2.” Students should answer the questions from the sheet.

4. Large group discussion — 15 minutes
Again, teacher should ask each group to report their answers. Teacher should facilitate the discussion.

If students would like more information on the Fond du Lac censorship, they should access the articles listed in the resources section.

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Fond du Lac gets new policy,
content in hands of students, adviser

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Blog, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Students at Wisconsin’s Fond du Lac High have a new editorial policy this fall after a spring and summer of working to reach compromise that would end prior review and restraint.

Reporter Sharon Roznik wrote in the  local  fdlreporter the board of education would support guidelines that give the “final decision-making process for publication ‘lies with the editors-in-chief and the editorial board in consultation with the faculty adviser.'”

Roznik and Cardinal Columns adviser Matt Smith report that Smith “has the authority” to refuse publication if material is libelous or obscene or can be called unprotected speech.

Roznik quotes Smith as appreciative of the board working with him and students obtain a solution.

“The students and I will meet regularly with the principal and/or district staff to discuss how things are going and continue building understanding about best practices for scholastic journalism as well as appreciation for how well our students operate and how much they deserve our trust and support. ” Smith wrote in an email earlier this month.”

Smith, wrote Roznik, said the best thing for the district in the long run is to make the Cardinal Columns a public forum for student expression.

To see the new policy guidelines, go here.

For background on the issue, go herehere and here.


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Students Tackle Coverage of Rape Culture

Posted by on Jan 28, 2014 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Fourth in a series of articles about student journalism that makes a difference

Jane Blystone, MJE
Covering a taboo topic like “rape culture” can be very daunting to any journalist. However the scholastic journalists at Palo Alto High School did not let the culture of silence deter them from telling covering this story that their peers needed to read. Students saw 3000+ copies of “Verde” distributed and 25,000 hits to their sister publication’s website,, move into the public arena.

Their adviser, Paul Kandell, shared the intensity of the work done by the students to cover this story in a thorough and sensitive manner. “With 3,000 print copies, 25,000+ online hits (as of May 1) and countless retellings through print, radio, TV and online interviews by Verde editors, the “You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped” package has broadly impacted awareness and discussion of a taboo subject: “rape culture” and its presence in high school life, particularly when combined with alcohol abuse. The package feels like a public inoculation: It’s hard to imagine any teen reading the story and being as cavalier about drinking or sex – or slut-shaming girls who have been raped. The more who read it the better.”

Students took the initiative to work with the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism, the Student Press Law Center,  the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma and a Poynter Institute course work on “Reporting on Sexual Violence.” Was the work intense work? Yes. Was the issue hard to write? Yes. Was the work worth it? Yes. Has it made a difference? Absolutely, and for all time.

Kandell is right and we share these documents with you to show you that well-trained and uncensored scholastic journalists can tackle hard-hitting stories with great depth, broad coverage and a sensitivity that is humbling.

1. Lisie Sabbag’s article “‘You can’t tell me I wasn’t raped’”

2. Will Queen’s piece “Breaking the Silence,”

3. Staff Editorial editorial.

4. Interviews of male students From a different perspective: a discussion with Paly guys,”

5. Savannah Cordova’s column Taking it Seriously: Ever made a rape joke? This column is for you

6. Staff infographic The state of rape today

7. Complete issue of Verde PDF of Verde Magazine on issuu

8. Letter sent to faculty



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Expressing student freedoms – and responsibility – through substantive reporting

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


In a survey taken at the San Antonio JEA and NSPA convention last  November, students and advisers reported censorship was alive and well in America’s schools. Forty-two percent of students and 41 percent of advisers responding said school officials had told them not to publish or air something. Fifty-four percent of students indicated a school official reviewed student media content before publication or airing.hazelwoodcolor

Both groups also incited self-censorship was an issue, prompting SPLC director Frank LoMonte to lay some of the blame for situations like these on the 1988 Hazelwood decision.

“Schools will continue to be disempowering places where no meaningful discussion of civic issues takes place so long as Hazelwood censorship is practiced,” he said.

Fortunately, some schools can and do tackle important issues and are not limited by misguided administrators. Others can learn from their efforts.

One example where students tackled substantive issues is the Verde at Palo Alto High School, in  California, where they reported on a “rape culture” at their school. Another is the Triangle of Columbus North High School in Columbus, Indiana, which published on sexual assault. Both stories reinforce the importance of issues teens face as seen in events in Steubenville, Ohio, and Saratoga, California.

Below are links to these students’ reporting,  and related stories. These stories are models of reporting student media is capable of when communities, school administrators and advisers support critical thinking and student decision making.

In the next several weeks, we will also report other efforts not only to limit Hazelwood’s impact but also to recognize schools around the country through our Make a Difference through substantive reporting project.

The SPLC developed its Cure Hazelwood website to help combat the effects of that 1988 Supreme Court decision, and JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Association prepared its Seeking a Cure for the Hazelwood Blues and Teacher’s Kit for Curing Hazelwood materials to educate all parties about the lack of education value in prior review and restrict by school officials. A myriad of essential curriculum materials and information about fighting Hazelwood exists on the Scholastic Press Rights Commission website.

For more information about the Verde and Triangle stories, see below:

* Palo Alto high students talk about ‘rape culture’

* Palo Alto high-school journalists expose ‘rape culture’

• High school students teach us how to talk about rape

• High school students school us about rape culture

• Steubenville Ohio articles over the last 30 days

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