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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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Think carefully before publishing April Fools’ Day content

Posted by on Mar 30, 2015 in Blog, Ethical Issues, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


By Megan Fromm, CJE
JEA Educational Initiatives Director

Let’s get straight to the punch line here: April Fools’ Day editions are a bad idea. Why? Well, the Student Press Law Center’s Frank LoMonte provides solid evidence that many joke publications are never received quite as they are intended.

Instead, student editors and advisers often find themselves defending poorly worded jokes or misinterpreted parodies. When all you have to lose is your credibility as a media outlet, the stakes are too high to take this risk.

Still, many student media staffs love the idea of using satire and parody to break the mold, lighten things up or engage their audience on a different level. So, if your students insist on producing April Fools’ Day content, take some steps to demonstrate best ethical and legal practices along the way. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Is the content produced clearly labeled as satire/humor/parody? If a reasonable person could mistake the content for actual news, you’re asking for trouble.
  2. Stay away from comedy or jokes that use violence as a theme. In today’s school climate of zero tolerance, even an obvious joke that includes violence could be grounds to punish a student. As LoMonte writes, “there’s no such thing as a ‘hilarious’ rape joke.”
  3. Consider the message you’re sending readers by publishing April Fools’ Day content. Is your entire publication dedicated to the day, or just a (well-labeled) page? Have you shirked your journalistic responsibility while trying so hard to develop comedic content? Is this really what scholastic journalism is about?
  4. Does your staff thoroughly understand libel law and the implications of defamation?
  5. Finally, encourage student editors to answer simply and honestly whether an April Fools’ Day edition is the hill they want to fight (and potentially die) on. In other words, with all the other battles facing student journalists, do they want to spend their time and effort defending this particular decision?

April Fools’ Day editions are notoriously bad news. In fact, SPLC attorney Mike Hiestand commented in 2006 that there is “a reason why April 2 is often the busiest day of the year for us at the Student Press Law Center.”

So, proceed with caution. Because if you don’t, chances are the joke’s on you.


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Embattled editors tell
their powerful stories at SPLC dinner

Posted by on Oct 19, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments


Sometimes it’s the bad things in life that help a person find a cause, a passion or a pathway. From a Pulitzer Prize-winner who sued his principal in the ‘70s to two teens, still closely involved in censorship issues at their own schools, those at the Student Press Law Center’s 40th anniversary dinner Oct. 16 heard stories every teen journalist and adviser should hear.

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Takedown demands?
Here is a roadmap of choices, rationale

Posted by on Apr 6, 2014 in Blog, Broadcast, Ethical Issues, Hazelwood, Legal issues, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized, Yearbook | 0 comments


Because of a growing number of takedown demands, requests for removal of online articles, JEA’s Scholastic Press Rights Commission offers guidelines to assist students and their advisers face these requests.  Such requests typically  come from sources, former staffers or citizens with concerns.

We agree with the Student Press Law Center’s Executive Director Frank LoMonte when he said the SPLC has shied away from telling people a ”right way” to handle takedown requests, leaving the decision to their editorial discretion.

“What we DO tell them is that they’re legally protected pretty much whatever decision they make,” LoMonte said. “Almost every newsroom has a variation of the simple rule that nothing will be taken down unless it’s proven factually false or otherwise legally deficient as of the time it was published.”

LoMonte said those creating takedown policies might “shackle themselves,” to the point they could not use discretion for that “one out-of-left-field moment …essential to deviate from policy.”

So, instead of policy, we offer this to help students make informed choices. In all situations, we recommend the SPLC’s existing work on the subject, and hope these guidelines will offer a roadmap if your students face takedown decisions. In addition, we also offers series of guideposts to evaluate information before it is posted: A Put Up policy that might prevent hard choices later.

Our guidelines look at legal demands, ethical considerations and possible reactions
Evaluating legal demands
Evaluating ethical choices
Decision models
10 steps to a “Put Up” policy
Handling online comments

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Why we keep harping about prior review

Posted by on Oct 8, 2013 in Blog, Hazelwood, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching, Uncategorized | 0 comments


by Kathy Schrier
At the conclusion of our summer student journalism workshop here in Washington state, we asked for student feedback and one student wrote: “We spent too much time hearing about prior review…”

I have to concede that this year’s summer workshop was, in fact, heavy on talk of the dangers posed by administrative prior review. It was inevitable. Workshop presenters included four members of the SPRC (Carrie Faust, Vince DeMiero, Fern Valentine and me); and special guest presenters included Mike Hiestand, consulting attorney for the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), and Brian Schraum, former SPLC Publications Fellow.

The student’s question was valid, causing me to pause and wonder if, in our deep concern for this issue, we don’t sometimes cross the line into overkill territory. If a student attends one of our workshops to learn more about how to use fonts effectively, should we force that student to worry about prior review?

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